For the past 23 years, Helen Grove, a parishioner at Holy Trinity Church in San Pedro, has been serving free meals to local homeless and needy men and women.

She originally launched the ministry with her late husband, Ralph Curtis Grove, who passed away in 2000, and continues now with the help of generous donations, parish volunteers and fellow members of her Catholic Worker lay ministry group.

After more than two decades of juggling locations --- occasionally finding temporary indoor venues, but mostly serving meals outdoors in a park overlooking the waterfront (and having to transport meals that were cooked in her home or elsewhere) --- an anonymous donor provided an invaluable gift: the use of a 4,500-square-foot building, complete with a full kitchen and dining area, offering a warm, hospitable place for those she serves.

Named in honor of her deceased husband, Curt’s Kitchen is located at 137 N. Pacific Ave. in San Pedro (between First Street and Santa Cruz). Family and friends were on hand for a blessing ceremony for Curt’s Kitchen on Oct. 27, and Grove opened the new site --- which serves meals two nights per week --- the next day.

Every Monday and Tuesday the doors open at 6 p.m. (“So as to not bother other local merchants with people hanging around outside,” explained the courteous Grove), and at 6:15 p.m. diners start lining up cafeteria-style to receive a hot, filling meal. To date, Grove and her volunteers have been serving up to 60 meals per night, and may expand to two meal servings per night as the need grows.

“It’s wonderful to be able to do everything in one place --- all the cooking, serving and cleaning --- and it’s very nice having our own refrigerator and freezer,” said the seemingly tireless 82-year-old. “It’s a wonderful opportunity because you sure don’t want to get stuck serving meals outside in the rain. So far, so good.”

The ministry is primarily funded by generous donations from friends, relatives, volunteers (servers/food preparers), Holy Trinity parishioners and occasional food donations from neighboring Mary Star of the Sea Church, San Pedro.

Grove also strongly credits 16-year-old Lizzy (last name withheld by request), a local Girl Scout and member of Holy Trinity, for making Curt’s Kitchen a reality. In pursuit of her Gold Award for Troop 5855, the high school student single-handedly solicited donations from the parish community and elsewhere between August and October, and raised the $4,000 needed to clean up the storefront and purchase equipment and furniture. She also organized friends and relatives to help clean and paint the interior of Curt’s Kitchen prior to the Oct. 28 grand opening.

 “She was instrumental,” said Grove. “She did a great job.”