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A college, a meal, a community

September 7, 2013 Updated: September 7, 2013 at 7:40 pm

What are Sundays for? Relaxing, sharing a meal, spending time with friends and family.

In other words, building community.

The Colorado College Community Kitchen wants to become the place where students, volunteers, the homeless and others seeking sustenance do just that.

In its 22nd year of serving Sunday lunch to anyone who needs nourishment and conversation on what many consider as a day of rest, the soup kitchen is on a mission to return to its roots, while introducing new ideas to carry it into the future.

"In the beginning, students got this place up and running. It was never a traditional soup kitchen - it was meant to be a comfortable place like home. But then it got so big that it resorted to the soup kitchen model," says Adison Quin Petti, leadership development coordinator for health and human rights at CC.

But starting Sunday and continuing for the next five weeks, a new program gets underway to restore that homey atmosphere and better connect those who eat at the kitchen with those who donate their time to pick up food, cook, serve and clean up.

Petti, a 2011 CC graduate who was homeless for three years as a teenager, is leading the effort. The concept involves having students, volunteers, kitchen guests and anyone from the public share their life stories with each other through art, discussions, music and other avenues.

On Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. participants will be able to do activities such as draw images that depict times in their lives when they moved mountains, encountered mudslides, planted seeds and experienced rays of sunshine. The soup kitchen is in the back of Shove Memorial Chapel at 1010 N. Nevada Ave., and the weekly meal is served at 1:30 p.m.

"We don't provide clinical services, but what we can provide is a place where people can tell their stories and develop relationships," Petti said. "The way any change happens in a community is by people telling their stories."

He'll create weekly zines - small photocopied programs with space for original artwork - for participants.

There will be other new elements.

The addition of canopy tents and tables for outside dining is designed to create a community picnic type of feel, instead of people leaning against buildings and sitting on grass.

Petti is asking people to bring different kinds of music to play both inside and outside.

He's also recruiting more students to get involved. Fifteen students from the "arts for social change" dorm will volunteer on Sunday and may engage kitchen guests and volunteers in song or skits.

Next Sunday, student leaders from 16 health and human rights groups on campus will help out, as well as receive leadership training - in which kitchen guests also can take part, as an educational, skills-building component.

Guests also are being invited to sweep, move chairs or help out in other ways to harness their energy as well.

"We want this to be a place to flock for a variety of reasons, to share a meal, to share their ideas, to share their skills, to share their resources, in the spirit of community," Petti said.

The CC Community Kitchen started in April 1992 because at that time, there was nowhere in town for those down on their luck to get a free meal on Sundays. That's since changed; Colorado Springs' largest soup kitchen, the Marian House, serves seven days a week.

But CC has kept its program, both as a community service to the impoverished and a way to involve students. About 200 people, the majority of whom are single men, eat there weekly.

For the first time, a three-year strategic plan is being developed for nourishing the body, mind and soul of all involved with the kitchen.

"It's about community engagement in different ways. Not big ways, tiny ways for people to plug in," Petti said.

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