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“Pasta Chili" for Cincinnati's Homeless Women

3 min read

“Pasta Chili" for Cincinnati's Homeless Women
Every November, Zelos raises funds in this month of Thanksgiving for the Esther Marie Hatton Center for Women in Cincinnati. While I introduced the Center in an earlier blog post, I wanted to tell you about the meal program that a group of volunteers provides there, one with a uniquely Cincinnati touch.  It is our famous local chili (the Greek origins of which I’ve also written about in my blog) that has inspired the meal which two volunteers prepare on a weekly basis: “pasta chili", meat, pasta and veggies, topped with grated cheese.  I asked volunteers Corinne Reich & Eric Vespierre to tell us just how this meal program started.


Eric: "In 2004, the Procter & Gamble International Transferee (PGITI) Gourmet Group, led by Annie Katz, started an all-volunteer group to provide meals to the Drop Inn Center (DIC) shelter. The idea was simple: to give a healthy, nutritionally balanced, and heart-warming meal to people in need in downtown Cincinnati.

DIC had originally begun in 1973 as an evening-only shelter for the homeless, located in a series of storefronts in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood north of downtown.  Volunteers were eventually able to keep the shelter open seven days a week, and as time passed and the shelter grew, it relocated to 12th Street, where it remained for 37 years.  Through the years, the DIC continued to add space and programs to address the growing need for services for Cincinnati's homeless: beds for 200 additional residents, a women's shelter, a drug treatment program for men and housing facility for those in recovery, and supportive services. 

As part of those services, the PGITI Gourmet Group committed to providing home-cooked and tasty meals to the shelter's residents.  Soon, the list of helpers grew. People from all origins joined the support group: long-time Cincinnatians, as well as folks who grew up in different parts of the world, gave time and money to cook, buy goods, and serve at the shelter. Now under Cristina Chueco's leadership, the group delivers on average one meal per week, serving over fifty people: two volunteers prepare a batch of "Pasta Chili", with others buying fruits and cookies, delivering the food, and serving at the shelter. This was - and still is - a direct, social, and meaningful way to give back to the community. "

Corinne: "When I was asked to contribute, I was immediately convinced by the idea. Where I grew up in France, a similar initiative started by an artist in the eighties turned into a nationwide non-profit, serving 60 million meals a year. I simply added "cooking a batch for the shelter" to my routine, and took a few hours of my time to shop and cook, while another volunteer would pick up my chili and bring it to the shelter. That is easy and makes complete sense for me: a few hours a month to give back to the community.  By delivering food on a regular basis, the group provides tremendous help to the DIC, and brings a little bit of relief and warmth to those in need."

In 2015 the Drop Inn Center officially became Shelterhouse, operating as two new state-of-the-art homeless shelters: The Esther Marie Hatton Center for Women at 2499 Reading Road, and the David and Rebecca Barron Center for Men at 747 West 5th Street. The goal for these new shelters is to help homeless individuals exit homelessness and become self-sufficient, stable, productive citizens within our community.  I hope you will help us donate to the meal program, now in its 15th year of operation, as the group continues to deliver much-needed meals to the Shelter: long-time and new volunteers, a different shelter, but the mission is being carried over with pride and enthusiasm!

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