Kelly Mirci has volunteered with Carol’s Kitchen since 2008. A retiree of the Banning School District, Kelly has also taught and served as principal for elementary and middle schools in Beaumont. He is one of our super-volunteers and a key operational figure at our St. Kateri location in Beaumont. In addition, Kelly offers tremendous support behind the scenes during non-kitchen hours. We were thrilled to chat with him about the work he does for Carol’s Kitchen and what inspires him to keep going.
Where are you from originally? How did you hear about Carol’s Kitchen?
I am from Nevada, born in Salt Lake City. I am told I was two months old when my family moved to Caliente, Nevada, where I was raised, attended school and graduated from high school. After graduating, I went into the service and when I got out, went to college in St. George, Utah then later earned my Bachelor’s at Utah State in Logan. After graduating, I looked for a job in California and started teaching in Newberry Springs on Route 66 on the other side of Barstow. Along with my wife and two children, I lived on a chicken farm with 30,000 chickens! After finishing that first year, I applied for job in Beaumont and got it. So my family and I left Newberry Springs in 1955 to move to Beaumont where I taught at Palm Middle School until Easter of 1960.
Later on, I would transition to the Banning School District. When I first heard of Carol’s Kitchen, it was while ushering at the then Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, which is now St. Kateri in Beaumont. After volunteering on Mondays, I was asked if I could help out on Thursdays as well. Unfortunately, one of our members who helps manage the Thursday kitchen got ill at that time, that was in 2009, so I pitched in more to help manage the dining area. I still do this today. To this day, I usually go down to the Thursday kitchen at about 3:00 in the morning to set up. During the week, I help other volunteers and board directors buy food at the food bank and pick up food at El Mariachi, who donates food to Carols’ Kitchen.
What made you want to work at a soup kitchen?
I found myself with spare time and always wanted to help those who were less fortunate than myself. I enjoy the camaraderie down at Carol’s Kitchen. We’ve got a good bunch of people there!
What have been your favorite experiences while working at Carol’s Kitchen?
I enjoy working with so many volunteers who are really nice people. I also enjoy helping with Carol’s Closet, laying the clothes out and getting them ready for giveaway.
Have you learned anything surprising by volunteering with Carol’s Kitchen?
The main surprise has been the camaraderie of the volunteers–the folks who pitch in. It’s a wonderful sight. I think I’m making a difference because there are a lot of people who recognize me when they come in to eat. They feel comfortable talking to me and I think they just feel a little bit better when they’re not shunned or excluded from a conversation with someone. I get the feeling the service we provide is helping them. We are very aware when someone doesn’t show up. It’s sad but sometimes we later find out that person passed away. We get attached to many of our guests.
In the San Gorgonio Pass area, what makes Carol’s Kitchen so important?
With the influx of all the new people who’ve come into the area, it is important we have an organization in the Pass who can help them out because a lot of them are in need. That’s where Carol’s Kitchen comes in. We fill this need many people have. We also have people who are very conscientious to feed our guests and they have made wonderful contributions to Carol’s Kitchen. They are well-received and glad to be able to provide that help.
Come in and meet Kelly sometime! Volunteer or enjoy a meal at our Thursday kitchen located at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church in Beaumont.