El Caldito Soup Kitchen has been collecting food and providing meals for the homeless and the poverty-afflicted population of Las Cruces and its surrounding rural communities for more than 30 years.
Founded January 1984, El Caldito originally offered a mid-day meal one day a week. The kitchen was relocated to its present facility on the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope campus in 1998. In early 2002, services were expanded to offering a hot mid-day meal Monday through Friday. The program was further enhanced in December 2002 to provide a carry-out sack lunch on Saturday. Then in early 2010, a hot Sunday lunch was added.
The number of people served increases every year. The summer months are the busiest, especially July, when children are out of school. The number of people served rises the last week of each month when people on fixed incomes run out of money.
As our services expand, we need more space, more equipment repair and replacement. As our volunteer forces move away, take paying jobs that don’t allow them time to volunteer, or simply retire from the soup kitchen, we need to add new kitchen and food rescue volunteers. We average 17 to 20 volunteers per day in the winter months, and 11 to 13 in the summer months when snow birds head north, high school and college students are out of school, and people go on vacations. Summer months are definitely understaffed. The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday times are also understaffed. While there is a great turn out to prepare the special Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, the other days around these times need more helping hands.
The board of directors could use new members with expertise in fund raising, event planning, social service, banking, and food service management.
Funding is always an issue. While we need food to prepare meals for the hungry and supplies to use when serving the meals, we also need funding to support the cost of running a commercial grade kitchen. We need to pay for utilities such as electricity and telephone, equipment repair and maintenance, and so on. If you would like to donate to El Caldito, please click HERE.
Started at St. Andrews church, a lunch consisted of a sandwich, served one day per week. The food was prepared by various church volunteer groups, including St. Andrews, St. Pauls, Holy Cross, and the Jewish Temple. Each serving day had about 12 volunteers, and served an average of 60 – 80 patrons.
Served 4 days per week, Monday thru Thursday. The meal consisted of sandwiches and soup. Meals served gradually increased to an average of 85 per day. Had about 50 volunteers per week.
The Food Rescue program started once per week, increasing to 4 days per week within a year or so.
A Food Rescue committee organized. More stores donated food and supplies. The first Empty Bowls fundraiser was held with the help of Potters’ Guild. Empty Bowls continues to be held annually in the fall.
El Caldito moved to their current location on the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope campus. Initially shared the building with St. Lukes and the shelter (no longer there). Daily menu increased to include salads, dessert, hot entrees, beverages. Served an average of 130 per day.
El Caldito began receiving grant support from city and state.
Gabe Chavez elected President of board of directors. He added Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to the program. Food Rescue program increased as more businesses, farmers and individuals learned about our services.
Saturday carry-out sack lunch added, which included sandwiches, fruit, cookie, beverage, snacks (chips, energy bars, yogurt cups, etc.)
Sunday hot lunch added. Thus, served a mid-day meal every day of the week every week of the year.
United Military Women of the SouthWest held first Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser at El Caldito dining room. The Spaghetti Dinner continues to be held annually in the spring.
Daily average lunches served: 200.
Daily average lunches served: 250.