Dallas Care For The Hungry And The Homeless

Every Saturday morning for the past twelve years, hungry and often homeless men, women, and children have gathered in a South Dallas vacant lot to gratefully receive a hot meal from their brothers and sisters who are the knights and dames of the Dallas Region of the Order of Malta. Rain or shine, good weather and bad, the Order of Malta has been there, serving those in desperate need.

In the early 1990s, alone and defenseless in a South Dallas vacant lot, a homeless man died from malnutrition and exposure. This tragic death inspired a human interest article in the Dallas Morning News. The story described his daughter, a young woman in her early 20s, who, after her father’s death, would visit the lot and bring a small amount of food to the homeless and needy who would gather there. One of the story’s readers, Opal Phillips, showed up at the lot to offer her assistance and was shocked to see the number of needy people. When Opal returned home, she called a popular morning radio program to issue a call for help. A management consultant from the Park Cities area of Dallas, well known for her cooking skills, heard her plea. This good-hearted chef was appalled to see so many homeless, hungry people being served by a meager feeding program. Seeking help, she reached out to friends and eventually Bette and Jerry Hoag. Arriving at the vacant lot the next week, the Hoags found Opal there, dressed in her cowboy boots and hat, standing at her van filled with food from her farm. Bette and Jerry were instantly inspired, dedicating themselves for the next 22 years to the Saturday Morning - Vacant Lot Food Ministry to the Homeless.

After she started working at this ministry, Bette Hoag submitted her application to be a candidate in formation in the Order of Malta. Bette had introduced David Holliday, the Order of Malta Regional Hospitaller to this ministry effort. So inspired by their combined enthusiasm to this ministry, other Malta knights and dames began volunteering. David continued to add support, and, as the membership in the Dallas Regional area continued to grow, so did the volunteers to this Saturday morning ministry. After being invited into the Order in 1999, Bette became the second Hospitaller in Dallas and she, David and the Dallas membership identified Feed the Hungry as a regional program. They also invited the Order of Malta - American Association to participate and four or five of their members have been regular contributors of their time, talent and treasure. In addition to food, knights, dames and volunteers bring warm clothes in the winter and during the Christmas season, often bring small wrapped gifts of necessity items for the adults and small toys for the children.

In the late 1990s as these lots were sold to developers, the ministry was forced to move three times and has now occupied lot #4 for seven years. The ministry serves over 3,000 meals a year. All meals begin with a prayer. The food is purchased from local grocery stores and prepared with healthy portions of love. Table cloths cover tables set with a buffet where all are welcome. We see Jesus’ face in every human face that comes to us with hunger or need. So, God willing, as long as a single knight, dame, or volunteer remains to serve, the homeless and hungry know that they can find acceptance, love, and strength every Saturday morning on Lot #4.