Meronica Finch walks through the kitchen door at the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission on a Tuesday morning with a huge smile on her face, ready to face the day. “Good morning,” she shouts as the door swings open. “Good morning!”
“I love cooking because as a young girl I used to be in the kitchen with my grandma and my mom.”
“A great cook has to keep a clean kitchen,” she shouts as she wipes down her cooking station where she’s preparing a meal for over 200 people.
“I’m a certified chef, but I’m not one of those cooks who measures things,” she says with a knowing smile. “People always ask me, how come you don’t measure anything? Because every time I try to measure something, I mess up, so I don’t do it. I go off instinct.”
“I went to Cordon Bleu School,” she says. “I know how to cook all of that cuisine, but I don’t do it. I make down home meals.” Anyone who has sampled her food is glad she does. With a quick taste she knows if it need a little more spice, or a little more sweetness.
On this day, she’s making a Chicken Stir Fry loaded with fresh vegetables and spices. “My stir fry is one of my big hits,” she says with gusto. “And they (the residents) love it. Let’s go!”
Part 2: Mother and Daughter share special mission
Meronica’s daughter is close by preparing fresh cinnamon rolls. Lakesha Finch is Director of Food Services at the Rescue Mission. “Mom is special,” she says. “Not only is she my mom, but she’s everyone’s mom out here. You don’t hear them calling her Meronica. You’ll hear them calling her mom.”
Mom is a title Meronica wears with pride. “They always come in and say, mom, what are you cooking today, what are you cooking today?”
“Today, I’m cooking a Chicken Stir Fry,” she says with glee as she stirs the ingredients with a giant paddle that resembles a canoe oar. “We’re feeding a lot of people today!”
“She cooks things like stir fry,” says Jay Evans, Communications and Social Media Coordinator at the Rescue Mission. “Yesterday, it was barbecue chicken for the residents because we believe that hope starts with a warm meal.”
“I’m gonna add a little more brown sugar,” Meronica says after sampling the dish. “I think it needs a little more sweetness for my guys.” Her “guys” as she calls them are the residents. “Don’t look down on them because they’re down, or homeless. Treat them with dignity, respect, and love.”
As mom chops up some fried pineapple to add to the stir fry, her daughter says, “A good meal, a hearty meal, can bring back childhood memories sometimes.”
As mom tosses in a few jalapeno peppers for spice, she reflects on the people she’s preparing the meal for. “I just love to see them eating and enjoying what they’re eating,” she says. “They always tell me, good meal mom, good meal. That makes me feel good. I love them to death.”
Evans sees the satisfaction on the faces of the people preparing the meal. “They’re getting to see that meal that they prepared going to somebody that is in need of a meal and getting that sense of fulfillment and positivity.”
Lakesha adds, “The food that we’re giving them isn’t just food,” she says. “It’s love on a plate.”