Scrambled eggs, applesauce and fried potatoes -- it may not be manna from heaven, but to Esther Reaves, it's close enough.
Reaves, the director of Midtown Churches Community Association, had been forced earlier this summer to cut back on the daily breakfasts served at Manna House, a soup kitchen in continuous operation for 18 years in the Barclay area.
Over the past year, the number of clients had doubled, pushing the cost of the program to more than $13,000 a month. The non-profit agency, unable to adjust its budget to meet the demand, shut down for most of July and cut back to Thursday through Monday schedule as of Aug. 1.
This week, thanks to two volunteers, Manna House was back in operation on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Word spread quickly, and by yesterday morning, the kitchen in the 400 block of E. 25th St. was serving almost 200 people.
"It's turned out to be quite an experience," said Howard Barkley, one of the two volunteers who made it possible. "The word has gotten around and this is only our second attempt at it."
Barkley, who retired last year after 41 years with Provident Bank, is a longtime volunteer, but much of his energy has been devoted to fund-raising for various groups. He and another volunteer, Martin Marvel, were in a planning meeting for a Sept. 29 fund-raiser when Reaves told them about the problems at Manna House.
"I was really upset and they were upset, so they decided they could do it," Reaves recalled. "They raised the money and brought the food and they got their volunteers together and we opened up."
Each man asked his respective church to donate the money for groceries, about $120 for each breakfast, Barkley said. They purchased food from the Maryland Food Bank and local grocery stores. Marvel received a donation from Loch Raven Methodist and Barkley received a donation from Wilson United Methodist of Long Green.
Marvel took the first day, serving up scrambled eggs and sausages. Barkley was worried it would be a hard act to follow.
"Marty is a cook extraordinnaire," he said of his friend, a semi-retired attorney. "This guy knows what he's doing, I'm just stomping around here."
Still, there were no complaints about Barkley's breakfast: eggs, potatoes and 28 quarts of home-made applesauce.
Manna House serves breakfast at 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. That's every day -- once again.