HOW TO HELP
For more information about Fast Day visit www.homelesschattanooga.org or call 756-4222.
The nonprofit that served a record-breaking 180,000 meals in one year to feed people who are homeless or in need is asking for financial help to continue its service.
"Without the Community Kitchen I would have been messed up. Homeless people would be messed up," said Jeffery Boozer, of Chattanooga.
Boozer, who was homeless for more than a year, is among 300 to 400 people each day who receive food, shelter, life-skills classes or medical care from the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.
The organization is launching its largest fundraiser of the year this fall with its annual Fast Day campaign. The goal is $700,000.
"The Community Kitchen is a blessing for its connections," said Kenneth Danley, who comes to the shelter for meals. "It gives you access to phones, an address, a place for somebody to meet you and get out of the weather."
The Fast Day campaign began in 1984 as Fast Day Week. The idea was that, during that week, supporters would skip a meal and donate the cost of that meal to the Community Kitchen, said Jens Christensen, the Kitchen's assistant director.
It was later recognized as "Fast Day" on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Since then, the campaign has become seasonal.
This month, Community Kitchen officials mailed letters notifying businesses and churches about the campaign.
Fast Day donations support the feeding program, the day center, laundry rooms, foot care, life-skills classes, clothing and hygiene items, Kitchen Director Charlie Hughes said in a written statement.
"All of the programs at the Kitchen rely on a successful Fast Day campaign," he said.
Proceeds from Fast Day account for nearly half of the Kitchen's operating budget, officials said.
"The Community Kitchen addresses directly -- and directly is an important word as far as I am concerned -- the needs of the less fortunate," said attorney Bill Aiken, who heads the Fast Day fundraiser with his wife, Ann.
Most people think the Kitchen is just a place where people eat, and obviously it is, he said, but it also provides health care, temporary shelter, clothing and jobs.
The couple said they are leading the campaign because they share in the Kitchen's goal to eliminate homelessness and help people become successful members of society.
Boozer said the Kitchen helped him get identification so he could get a job.
"It ain't just a kitchen," he said. "This helps get people off the street."