Iola church parishioners open their doors to feed student athletes

A church in Iola, Kansas is opening it’s doors to student athletes at the Allen County Community College.

It may be hard to believe, but this now empty dining hall was filled with more than 40 student athletes from the Allen County Community College here in Iola. The hall is at the St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church and for the last several years some volunteers have been baking up casseroles and other hot meals for the athletes. Candace Sifers says “One of our parishioners her son is is the cross country track coach and the kids needed someplace to eat because the cafeteria isn’t always open at the time some of the athletes have to be here, so that’s how we got started doing this.”

You may be wondering why it’s just the athletes, Candace Sifers says, the answer is pretty simple. “It’s because the other students are gone for Christmas break, but the athletes have games and practices that they have to do, and it’s the same like the beginning of school, they’re all here before the other students have to come.”

For other parishioners like Marsha Burris, it’s about family. “To me these students are like my nieces and nephews. I just want them to be a part of Iola, to feel like that we’re family, if they need family, if they need help, we’re here to help them.”

Sifers says the fun part, is introducing students from outside our area to some of the unique cuisine. “A lot of our students, the students that we have, are from all over the country and so we have kids that we have to explain what some of the food is because they’ve never seen or had it, or they’ve never eaten it, so you have to explain to them what it is, and coax them into trying it but generally it works out.”

Sifers says the group usually cooks food four times through the year to keep the on-campus athletes fed.