Mudgie’s serves up comfort to those in need

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

Detroit — Bill Mendoza lifted a huge pot from the stove and poured the bow-tie noodles into 12 serving pans inside of the kitchen at Cass Community Social Services.

Volunteer Timina Simmons carries tomatoes to the prep station as Mudgie's Deli employees prepare lunch for people Wednesday at Cass Community Social Services in Detroit.

“I stood in lines not too long ago myself so I know what it feels like to look forward to a good meal,” said Mendoza, who works at Mudgie’s Deli in Detroit. “I was given a second chance at life, and all I want to do is pay it forward.”

Mudgie’s Deli owner Greg Mudge and four of his employees partnered with Detroit Area Chefs Feed the Need, a nonprofit, to cook lunch for people at Cass Community Social Services Wednesday afternoon.

Every Wednesday, restaurants throughout the Metro Detroit area provide lunch for people at Cass Community Social Services or the Baldwin Center in Pontiac.

Wearing a black chefs jacket with an embroidered Mudgie’s logo, Mudge helped to prepare the mushroom and beef sauce for pasta.

“This is my first time doing this, and for me, it’s important to help raise awareness about homelessness,” said Mudge, who opened Mudgie’s Deli in 2008. “My grandmother is Italian so when I think of serving a lot of people, I think of pasta and bread. I just wanted to be able to provide a good, hearty meal.”

More than 250 people lined up around the corner from the dining hall on Woodrow Wilson as they anxiously waited for the pasta lunch with a mixed green salad, bread from Milano Bakery and ice cream.

Shelia Johnson of Detroit looks forward to lunch at Cass Community Social Services every Wednesday.

“I love it. It’s nice to be able to get a good meal and see people give back in the community,” Johnson said. “I work two jobs, but it’s still hard for to make ends meet after paying bills and utilities. Life is what you make it, but it’s good to know that people care.”

The initiative originated in Charleston, South Carolina, by Detroit native Mickey Bakst in 2011 to help shelters and soups kitchens in need during hard economic times. Bakst helped Judi Shefman and John Carlin launch the Detroit Area Chefs Feed the Need in November of that same year.

“So far, we have 100 restaurants that volunteer their time and services. We are so grateful and happy because we wouldn’t be able to exist without them,” Shefman said. “When Greg agreed to provide lunch today, we were thrilled. His food is always so comforting and filling.”

Trista Billingsley, one of the chefs at Mudgie’s Deli, sliced tomatoes along with her sister who helped prepare 10 pans of salad.

“There are so many people in need, and we try to help each other as much as possible,” Billingsley said. “All we can do is feed as many as we can while giving thanks and uplifting the community.”

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