One Kirkwood restaurant is helping those dealing with homelessness in St. Louis, and there's an easy way for you to join in, too.
Lisa Nicholas, co-owner of The Greek Kitchen, was on Facebook several months ago when a friend posted about making peanut butter sandwiches for folks in and around Gateway180, an organization in downtown St. Louis that helps connect vulnerable people with stable housing.
"I said, 'I can do that,'" Nicholas says, especially with a dining room where she couldn't welcome guests at the moment. "So we started doing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Thursdays. I had my staff and myself and my husband doing it."
Not only was it a way to make Nicholas feel like she was helping people in a time she couldn't help her own restaurant, but it was a way to help keep her restaurant staff active on days when they would prep the sandwiches.
"It's just been such a blessing, because I couldn't do anything about the restaurant," she says. "I mean, I felt kind of helpless. And this was an incredible way for me to be able to help."
Nicholas' friend continued to drop off the sandwiches made at The Greek Kitchen on Friday mornings, and mentioned to Nicholas that Gateway180 needed all sorts of donations for its clients. Nicholas realized she had a private event room that she had no use for during the pandemic, so she began welcoming donations of all sorts to be collected at the restaurant. And as items continued to pile up, she started packing up the restaurant's van and driving the donations downtown herself, along with the sandwiches.
Nicholas used the NextDoor app and her connections at the dance school where she used to teach to get the word out about collecting donations. And, as she says, Kirkwood stepped up. Items ranged from high-need items like personal hygiene products and canned food, but people also brought items like an air hockey table, a punching bag, sleeping bags, air mattresses and more. At Christmastime, toys, stuffed animals and more for kids poured in, too.
"People have just been so generous and kind," Nicholas says. "The community has come together and really just filled up that room that I've had in the restaurant. They've filled it up so many times, and I've been able to put everything in the van and take it down there for them."
For those looking to help, Nicholas is still accepting donations at The Greek Kitchen that she will drop off at Gateway180. For those looking to donate directly to Gateway180, more details can be found on the organization's website.
The Greek Kitchen, 343 S. Kirkwood Road #101, Kirkwood, Missouri, 314.462.9112, thegreekkitchen.net