EVERETT — The brown-bag lunches leaving Kindred Kitchen last week may not have seemed like anything out of the ordinary at the Everett cafe.
A sandwich, bag of chips and a fresh-baked cookie were stuffed in each sack, like what a parent might send with their child to school. These meals were a symbol of gratitude, headed north to volunteers administering the COVID-19 vaccine at the Arlington Municipal Airport drive-thru site.
It was an act of kindness for the frontline workers, a reminder that the community supports them.
“We are really excited to be able to do something to show our love and appreciation for what they are doing for everyone else,” said Karin Resing, director of the Kindred Kitchen.
About 30 volunteers were on hand in Arlington from the Medical Reserve Corps, the Civil Air Patrol, Snohomish County fire departments and elsewhere. On these frigid February days, the men and women braved the cold to vaccinate an average of 1,400 people a day.
A midday meal is a much-appreciated reprieve, said Jeff Cole, deputy chief of operations for the Marysville Fire District and one of the Arlington site managers.
“It’s nice to be able to get the workers off the line and give them something warm to eat before they get back into the flow of vaccinating our citizens,” he said.
The Snohomish County Vaccine Taskforce debuted the vaccination site late last month. Cole described the opening weeks as controlled chaos, but things have been getting smoother.
“We are still getting in the flow of things,” Cole said. “It’s definitely a learning curve — this is something most of us have not dealt with in the past.”
The restaurant on the street level of HopeWorks Station, 3315 Broadway, opened in December 2019. Part of the HopeWorks Social Enterprise, Kindred Kitchen offers life and job skills training to low-income or homeless young adults pursuing stable employment in the food industry.
In the cafe’s first few months, a snowstorm paused business. A pipe leak paused it again. And then the pandemic hit, leaving the restaurant in limbo.
Like many eateries across the state, the cafe stopped indoor dining and had to grapple with other restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The shutdown moved much of the nonprofit’s 14-week job training online.
“We’ve had to really shift and pivot, and keep analyzing every day, with the cards we’ve been dealt, what we can do,” Resing said. The students “have really had to adapt. It’s even harder when you’re in that new experience of learning a new skill you’re not familiar with.”
Still, six people completed the program in the chaos of 2020. Thirty young adults have graduated from the HopeWorks culinary training since it began in 2016.
After the initial shutdown last spring, Kindred Kitchen weathered the mandates, switching from dine-in to takeout, beginning a delivery service and making at-home meal kits on holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
Customers were coming and going again this month for indoor dining and takeout, but with all the changes there have been small hiccups. Assistant manager Calli Johnson said she often finds herself forgetting to ask the all-important question, “For here or to go?”
Staff prepared meals for nurses during an appreciation week last May. Grants allowed Kindred Kitchen to serve the HopeWorks community with a spread each week. A $2,000 donation from Union Bank funded lunch for vaccination site volunteers and other meals.
“It feels awesome coming into work knowing we aren’t just making sandwiches and serving coffee,” Johnson said.
On Friday morning, Jennifer Smith helped to build the dozens of sandwiches that were delivered to Arlington. She slapped condiments on each slice of wheat bread before stacking lettuce, tomatoes and cheese on top of cold cuts, or cucumbers for those who prefer veggies.
Without glancing up from the sandwich at hand, Smith said the meals mean a little more when you know they are serving frontline workers.
“It’s always an amazing feeling when you can help people feel appreciated,” Smith said.
Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.