NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Project HOPE, or Helping Other People Eat, is launching a new endeavor in Nacogdoches which will help feed those hungry in the community.
Although the idea is to open what’s commonly referred to as a soup kitchen, Project HOPE calls their idea Jo’s Diner.
“People will just come to Jo’s Diner, and it’ll be first come, first served, because we’re going to prepare food for 50 [people],” said Denise Lee of Project HOPE. “We’re going to have a table. We’re actually going to sit at the table and enjoy a meal with friends and family.”
Diep Ervin, a volunteer chef, has made a traditional Vietnamese meal she cooked Wednesday many times before, but never for 50 guests at one time.
“I prepare Vietnamese food. It’s pho,” Ervin said. “It’s kind of fun, but a little bit stressful and kind of scary.”
The statement totally sums up everything about Jo’s Diner. The scary part comes from knowing why Nacogdoches needs a place for a free, hot meals in the first place. Lee explained that the poverty rate in Nacogdoches has risen from 25 percent to 30 percent in recent years, according to the latest information from the census bureau.
On Wednesday, students from the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Social Work acted as standing clients as Jo’s Diner began its first dry run.
“There are so many people in poverty we served this last month. More than 2,000 individuals were served from HOPE,” Lee explained. “And the need keeps growing.”
Even though there is a $8,000 grant to help Project HOPE kick-start the program, the nonprofit is still hoping for another grant from community funds.
“We need a team to set up, we need a cooking team, and a team to clean up," Lee said.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to have everything in place this month. We were hoping to have it open next week, so we will start July 31, and then we will be right on track after that," said Sharon Ninness, volunteer grant writer and project director.
SFA students will conduct fundraisers to help fund Jo’s Diner. Garage sales and cookbooks are on the fundraising list, too.
The second priority is finding enough regular volunteers to keep the program running.
Anyone interested in volunteering with Jo’s Diner is encouraged to contact Project HOPE by calling (936) 559-1801. Jo’s Diner will open to the community on July 31.