By fall, Community Ministries Inc. hopes to be moving into its fully renovated community kitchen, thanks in large part to the Ray and Kay Eckstein Charitable Trust.
Tuesday, representatives of the ministry, the Eckstein family and other community supporters gathered at their new location at 1237 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to celebrate a $300,000 donation by the trust.
"What a tremendous blessing for us," said Mike Rothwell, board president. "It's beyond our wildest dreams to have this size of a contribution. It will be used wisely. This is for our community, served by members of the community and supported by the community."
Ray Eckstein said it has been the foundation's goal from the beginning to find meaningful ways to give back to the community.
"We love to help people in need. That's what the foundation is all about," he said.
Community Ministries will receive the donation in annual installments over three years.
"The five trustees - Ray and Kay Eckstein and their daughters, Sue Homra, Cindy Erickson and Teresa Eckstein - collectively decide who to help," said Doreen Hahn, foundation director. "We wanted to give Community Ministries the first installment right away to do renovations."
Community Ministries purchased the building in March, using funds from another long-time supporter: the Carson-Myre Foundation.
"The Carson-Myre Foundation, that we represent, has helped the community kitchen for several years," said board chairman J. William Howerton.
Now, with the additional funding from the Ecksteins, he continued, the dreams for a new facility can come true.
When the ministry began in February 2008, it started with a community kitchen at New Covenant Church at 1225 Broadway.
"It mostly started with church folks and it grew," said Brad Faulkner, one of its founders. "There were a few small churches who served one meal a week or on the weekends, but there was nothing throughout the week to help people with their food needs. We started a Monday through Friday lunch program."
By the end of the first week, the ministry had served 35 meals. Today, it serves 1,200 to 1,500 meals a week.
After renovations, the new center will not only feature a commercial kitchen, but showers and a laundry facility.
"There is a need for personal hygiene facilities," said Sally Michelson, another ministry founder. "We can provide showers, a washer and dryer, and a handicapped bathroom."
Pending building inspections, Michelson said leaders hope to begin renovations immediately and be in the new location by fall.
The ministry will continue to serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily at 1225 Broadway until the new building is completed.
Contact Carrie Dillard, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8657.