At 68 years old, getting up at 4 a.m. and cooking breakfast for as many as 30 may seem like a daunting task, but for Janet Holbrook, of New Boston, it is just a regular Sunday.
Food has always been at the heart of all Holbrook did in life. She worked at Lynn Elementary in Greenup County, Kentucky as a cafeteria worker for 17 years, where she would often buy lunch out of her own pocket for hungry children going through her lunch line. As the years went on, feeding hungry children became her passion, but it was not until she started driving a church bus that it became her calling.
Close to 40 years ago, she and her husband attended a Church of God of the Mountain Assembly (CGMA) in Kentucky where Holbrook found there was a need she could not stand by and ignore.
“We used to pick some kids up on the bus and take them to church. There was two of them—two little ‘ol boys that would come out and get on the bus in their pajamas. They always called me momaw. They’d say, ‘Momaw, can we go to church in our pajamas. And, I’d say, ‘Yes, come on.’ Well, I used to keep snacks at church. They were poor and always hungry, so I’d give them snacks,” Holbrook said looking back. “And, I said from then on, if the Lord will bless me, I’m going to start cooking for the kids over at the church. I’ve been cooking for kids and adults ever since.”
Holbrook has been momaw to many kids since. Though the adults were never left out, hungry children were her priority. Unfortunately, the need has always been there. Throughout her lifetime, Holbrook says she has seen a lot of hungry children needing a meal. She has made it her mission for feed as many of these children as possible.
Holbrook and her husband moved to New Boston 27 years ago, where she now cooks breakfast for children at her church – the CGMA on Shale Hollow Road – every Sunday and dinner every Wednesday for Bible study. Whether it is pancakes and fried bologna or biscuits and gravy, the nurturing cook continues to make sure that everyone eats. It is often a daunting task that involves her waking up at 4 a.m. to feed her husband and mother (for whom she is a caregiver) before warming up the stoves in the church kitchen. It takes an entire crock pot of gravy to feed everyone. Dinner often takes all day Wednesday to prepare. And, she even takes requests.
Holbrook performs this minor miracle with only her cousin Timmy Sowers and Bill Howerton to help.
“Bless his heart, he’s crippled, but he helps me get everything cleaned up in the kitchen,” Holbrook said about Howerton, who often does all the dishes in order to make sure that everything is cleaned up before the children are ready to start their Sunday school classes.
In addition to feeding her church congregation, Holbrook is known as the kind hand willing to lift anyone up. In addition to raising six of her own children and now being a grandmother to many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she often feeds her neighbors or helps them in times of hardship. Sometimes, she just cooks meals at home and gives them away.
Even when she isn’t cooking for the needy, Holbrook is cooking. Anyone who walks in her house usually gets a meal, and she even works for the church softball team concession.
“I help people all the time. I just can’t stand to see people struggling the way that some have to. My heart goes out to people like that,” Holbrook commented.
Keeping up with the grocery bill can be a challenge at times, but those who know what Holbrook does for others are usually there to help. On many occasions, she has stepped out on her front porch or walked into church to find donations, but she never relies on them.
“If I don’t get donations, I’ll just use what I have,” Holbrook said.
Despite the cost, she says she never misses the money that she puts into what she feels is her ministry.
“I’m just blessed,” she exclaimed. “I give God all the credit. He makes a way for me to feed everyone.”
Over her lifetime, Holbrook has fed so many hungry children that she can’t say exactly how many, but she never forgets them and is happy that they never seem to forget her.
“They’ll see me somewhere and just walk up and hug my neck,” she said smiling. “It’s amazing that they still remember me.”
Though a full belly was appreciated, it is the small and continuing acts of kindness that so many children and now adults remember about Holbrook.
Though she is aging, Holbrook says she will not stop anytime soon. As long as she continues to see children going without, she will continue to work to lessen their suffering.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1930.