Harlan Co. shelter hands out meals to anyone hungry on Thanksgiving

By: Paige Quiggins Email
By: Paige Quiggins Email

Brenda Leek says she did not expect to be spending the holidays in Kentucky

“I stopped down here just to look around and I wanted to see kingdom come and stuff,” said the 57-year-old.

The Ohio native was on her way to Florida in June to stay with her children when something happened. Leek used to be a care taker and had been living with her children in Orlando when her brother and sister became terminally ill and she had to go take care of the both of them.

“My car broke down here so I am stuck at right now, but I will get home,” said Leek.
“The good Lord will take care of me like he always has.”

Leek said that when she finally makes it home she plans to send money back to the shelter. She said she used to work as a care taker but simply cannot find work around the area and will not be able leave until her car gets fixed.

In the mean time she has been breaking bread with people she now calls friends. She said Dr. Robert Atkins, who runs the shelter, along with all of the other administrators made her feel at home when she knew no one.

Atkins said that he believes he is serving God by helping people and even giving free medical visits, four per year to people without insurance.

“I am never thankful that anyone is in need, I am thankful that God and Christ has allowed us to have a facility like this,” said Atkins.

Six-year-old Maria Ball has lived at the shelter for around 3 months with her father Jim. She said she had much to be thankful for this year.

“Food, my family,” said Maria.

“I can't think of anything else,” she added after a long pause.

Brenda said everyone has been incredibly kind at the shelter and she sees them as family, since her 6 brothers and sisters along with her parents are now deceased.

“To me, this shelter is my home, and it will be in my heart it always will be, and when I pass away, this is going to be one of the things I think about,” said Leek.

“Because these people helped me, and I want to give back.”

Atkins said the shelter is open to anyone. He said they have served around 400,000 meals to hungry people since 1998 when it opened.


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