Soup kitchen miracles
By Mallory Matt
Wreathes hung on the walls and hot turkey dinners awaited hungry mouths. It was Christmas 1987, the day Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas Hospitality Center served its first meal.
The wife of the soup kitchen’s first director, the late Deacon Vernon Drummond, remembered it like it was yesterday. Diane Drummond said Bishop Bernard Ganter, the third bishop of the Diocese of Beaumont, stopped by the building to check on the progress the week before Christmas.
“It wasn’t all done, and Vernon told him, ‘We’re opening Christmas day.’ And the bishop said, ‘Vernon, you’ll never do it,’” Diane said with vigor. “So Vernon went to the parishes and said, ‘Send your crafts people.’ And we opened Christmas day.”
Diane and Vernon’s oldest son, Derick Drummond, the pastoral associate at St. Charles Borromeo in Nederland, remembers miracles at the soup kitchen happening often — where their needs were always met.
Diane smiled as she recalled the miracles happening in the days leading up to the opening of the Hospitality Center.
“We were working on the center — cleaning and decorating it for Christmas — but we hadn’t gone out to buy food yet,” she said. “Well one day, somebody came to the back while I was cleaning and said, ‘I have some food for you. We closed down a ship by the Rainbow Bridge. It’s broke and we’ve got to get all the food out.’ He said, ‘If you could send about three trucks, we’ll fill them up.’ And here we had no food and we were opening up in a few days.
“So we went out there and we got prime rib, salmon and all kinds of things,” she said. “You would not believe the food we had for three months. I mean we got food that we don’t even buy for ourselves.”
In order to store all of the food, the Drummonds knew they were going to need a large freezer, but they could not afford it.
“One morning, Angie Knoll School closed down and they called the next morning and asked, ‘Could you use a freezer?’” Diane laughed. “I mean, God did that continually. His timing was perfect. So we got the freezer and we got the food.
“Then we needed a dishwasher and a friend provided the dishwasher,” she said. “God was so good. It’s like if we were doing His work, then He will open the door and provide. We had about four of those kinds of miracles happen in the first few months.”
Although only 14 people came in from the streets for a hot meal that Christmas day, the Drummonds did not lose hope. Within a month, 150 to 200 people were coming in each day for a lunch.
“The word got out quickly and then all of the sudden, we were just trying to keep up,” Derick said.
Derick said it was always exciting when the next miracle came along, even though he should’ve expected it.
“I mean, I should never be amazed because God just outdoes Himself all the time,” Derick said.