Q&A: Randy Yarbrough, Executive Director, Community Kitchens of Birmingham

The Williams Brothers Band’s performance at Clubhouse on Highland on May 30 is a benefit show for The Community Kitchens of Birmingham.

The Community Kitchens of Birmingham has been caring for Birmingham's homeless for almost 40 years.

The Williams Brothers Band’s upcoming performance at Clubhouse on Highland on May 30 is a benefit show for The Community Kitchens of Birmingham, a nonprofit organization providing meals to Birmingham’s homeless. Portico Magazine caught up with Randy Yarbrough, Executive Director of The Community Kitchens, at the weekly Church In The Park at Kelly Ingram Park in downtown Birmingham to learn more about the ministry’s mission and vision.

When was The Community Kitchens of Birmingham started?

Community Kitchens is basically a soup kitchen that serves out of two locations in Birmingham and also at Church In The Park. It started out as a ministry of a church but it got to be so big that Community Kitchens took it over and we now serve 365 days a year. We have lunch at two locations and one Wednesdays we have it at three locations with Church In The Park here. We also serve breakfast five days a week out of our Woodlawn location.

How many people do you reach on a weekly basis?

Roughly speaking we feed about 1,200-1,500 or so every week depending on the time of the month. The majority of our guests are either homeless or on some type of disability or Social Security and so at the first of the month, that week there is a little more money to go around, but in the weeks afterward, we start building up.

What are the needs and underlying factors in Birmingham at the moment?

The factors that put people on the street are, obviously, quality of life, unemployment, and we see a lot of people dealing with mental issues that are on the street because they don’t have anywhere else to turn. But, the majority is people who are either unemployed or unemployable who just need a hand making it through the day. 

What are some of the other needs that Community Kitchens would like to address in the area?

We do as much as we can with the funding we have. We have requests from time to time to start serving in different locations. Right now there is basically a void in the Western section of any type of soup kitchen or one that does any type of wide service. So, we’ve been invited into the Bessemer and Fairfield area, but we just don’t have the resources to go there right now, but we’d like to try to expand and go into those areas. Our goal is to serve a warm, nutritious meal and to give them a place that is a respite from the rough world that they live in each day, but we also try to offer other things. Our main goal is to give a least one nutritious meal a day and give them a place to rest and get out of the cold or the heat or whatever the environment is.

Where does the support for The Community Kitchens of Birmingham come from?

We are totally privately funded. There is no government funding, and everything is from individuals, churches, and foundations. We have some wonderful churches and foundations here in town and we also have a lot of people who might give $25 a month or $50 whenever they can. We’ve been blessed with a good number of donors who have been with us for years and years. We are in our 39th year of operation now and we actually have some donors who have been around 15 or 20 years or so.,

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