The Good Samaritan Inn-Logo
Serving the Greater Decatur, IL Area Since 1982     217-429-1455
Celebrating 35 Years

4th Annual Culinary Cookoff

  • By 7010967493
  • 10 Jan, 2017
This year's culinary cook-off is just around the corner. This is a great evening of fun and good food while raising funds for the Inn's programs. Make you plans to join us this year. Tickets go on sale Feb. 1st!

The Good Samaritan Inn Blog

By 7010967493 20 Nov, 2017
November 2017 - A team of Ameren Illinois employees, interns, and community members volunteered their skills in full-force at The Good Samaritan Inn on November 15 - 16. The goal of their project - to construct a greenhouse, install specialty designed composting heaters, and put up innovative solar generators. This two-day implementation, led by Ameren electrical engineering interns Rebecca and Eunice, was the culmination of 6 months of planning. The project was a part of Ameren's Women Influencing Success in Energy.

Rebecca Whiteman, a chemical engineering co-op at Ameren and Texas A & M University student who co-led the project, sees the value in being able to design a project from beginning to end for the good of a community. 

"We are building a passive solar heating system to keep the greenhouse above freezing using as little energy as possible," Rebecca explains. "By doing this, The Good Samaritan Inn can grow vegetables in the winter and use the vegetables in the soup kitchen year-round." 

The entire project resulted in a greenhouse, "off grid" composting heaters and solar air generators made using recycled cans for the community gardens at the Good Samaritan Inn.

"At Ameren we are big believers in giving back to the community," states Heather McConnell-Smith, supervising Engineer at Ameren. "Dr. Brohard and The Good Samaritan Inn are doing a ton for the community. They are doing a lot of innovative things that are helping people get back on their feet."

With the produce raised in the greenhouse, The Good Samaritan Inn will be able to continue feeding everyone that walks into the soup kitchen, including the 980 children served each month at The Good Samaritan Inn .
By 7010967493 03 Oct, 2017
Rev. Dr. Stacey Brohard, Executive Director of The Good Samaritan Inn, is presenting at the Regional Neighborhood Network Conference (RNNC) 2017 in Evansville, Indiana on October 6, 2017.  

The Regional Neighborhood Network Conference is a three-day event bringing together community-minded individuals and organizations from Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee. Volunteers, corporations, government representatives, and community leaders gather to learn from each other and gain valuable ideas to help transform their own community. It features a wide variety of workshops about state of the art approaches to neighborhood improvement, presentations by experts and leaders in urban and neighborhood development.

This year's conference theme is  Neighborhoods: Where Life Happens.

Rev. Dr. Stacey Brohard, Executive Director of The Good Samaritan Inn , will be presenting alongside many Midwest leaders in neighborhood development .   He will be presenting how, in Decatur, Illinois, The Good Samaritan Inn serves as much more than a soup kitchen and not-for-profit. Non-profits can be strong leaders in neighborhood economic development. He will present The Good Samaritan Inn as a model for potential duplication of inner-city farming as economic development in their communities.

The Good Samaritan Inn is located in one of the lowest-income neighborhoods in the Decatur area. Under the leadership of Reverend Stacey Brohard, the local soup kitchen identified a problem - lack of access to food - and then realized that they were uniquely positioned to explore an opportunity to improve the neighborhood. 

A few years ago, the Good Samaritan Inn had a dilemma they needed to troubleshoot:

  • We feed 300 + people a hot noon meal 7 days a week
  • We have an abundance of volunteers
  • We are in constant need of food
  • The neighborhood we are in has a problem maintaining empty lots
  • A large percentage of our patrons are unemployed
The Good Samaritan Inn's solution - rally volunteers and community partners to transition the empty lots into urban farming. And, through that, create a job training program for unemployed individuals in the neighbood. 

Currently The Good Samaritan Inn produces 14,000 pounds of fresh food per year for the soup kitchen while training adults for today’s job markets.The Good Samaritan Inn grows more food, more graduates, and more city lots with purpose. It has grown hope for a city, a neighbor, and its people.  

By 7010967493 23 Sep, 2017

On July 26, 2017 our Executive Director, Reverend Stacey Brohard, visited a local farm church that had been donating produce to the Decatur-based soup kitchen. He followed the visit up with a heartfelt Facebook post expressing the farm church’s need for a tractor with a bucket. This single Facebook post culminated in $11,500 in donations toward a tractor for the farm church, Jubilee Farms .

On Friday, September 22, we had the pleasure of networking with the Jubilee Farms congregation and presenting the tractor. It was a true blessing to see our community, Good Sam staff and students, and members of the Jubilee Farms community join together to enjoy the serenity of the farm and discuss opportunities to ensure food gets in the hands of the people who need it. The major donor, Kathy Holler, traveled all the way from Arkansas for the tractor dedication. The event was not only be a potluck and dedication of the tractor, but an announcement of the new partnership between The Good Samaritan Inn and Jubilee Farms.

Jubilee Farms United Church of Christ Church of Clinton exists to provide its neighbors, regardless of income, fresh, locally grown produce. Cyndy Ash, owner and operator of Jubilee Farms, states about the partnership, “The Good Samaritan Inn is able to take the produce and create delicious, healthy, hot meals daily.”

This donation and growing partnership will also ensure local food stays local. For The Good Samaritan Inn, a Decatur-based organization that serves hot lunch to 350 people, 7 days a week, being able to support local food efforts aligns with their farm-to-table-model.

“People take for granted the local buying power of a local soup kitchen,” Reverend Stacey Brohard, stated. “Our end mission is to get food in the hands of the people that need it. Through the partnership with Jubilee Farms, we are able to achieve this goal and more. We are able to partner with a like-missioned organization and keep food local.”

Rev. Brohard sees the partnership and donation of the tractor as a win-win for both organizations, as The Good Samaritan Inn is able to support a community partner to increase crop yield that will be donated directly back to soup kitchen.

In addition donated crop shares from Jubilee Farms to The Good Samaritan Inn in the 2018 harvest, the partnership is exploring opportunities for an immersed apprenticeship program.

By 7010967493 31 Jan, 2017
Before the summer of 2016, I didn’t care or think much about food. Of course, I had foods I liked and foods I didn’t, but food was never a big deal to me. I had no idea how much it could affect people or change lives. I had also never gardened; I was always too focused on school and track to spend my springs or summers growing food or flowers. Then, my family went to southern California over Christmas break last year, and I discovered the culture of healthy eating and the many farm-to-table restaurants. California was like a paradise, but we couldn’t move there. So instead, I decided to make my Illinois more California-ish. For the first time, I became interested in plants, fascinated by growing my own food. I wanted to become an expert in all things gardening. My mom told me about the gardens at the Good Samaritan Inn and suggested I garden there (she didn’t want me tearing up the grass in our backyard). A month later, I started talking to the Inn about volunteering in their gardens over the summer. I had volunteered at the Inn before, serving in the dining room, and my mom had worked there ever since my dad died in 2013, but I had never been in the gardens before, and I had no idea how much the experience would change me.
First, I got the whole saga of the gardens program. For years, the Good Samaritan Inn was entirely a soup kitchen. Situated in one of the most poverty-stricken areas in Decatur, Illinois, its primary purpose, like most soup kitchens, was to feed the hungry. Then, a couple years ago, the new director decided to transform the empty lot on the Inn’s property into a garden. This new garden program greatly expanded and now includes five gardens in the Good Samaritan Inn’s neighborhood, two other gardens located further away, and even a small orchard. The Inn uses the fresh produce in its daily meals, and the menu has changed drastically from dessert every day to fresh greens and fruit every day. The new garden program transformed the Inn from another place for the hungry to eat unhealthy food to a free and nutritious oasis in a food desert.
Last spring, the Good Samaritan Inn allowed me to manage the one original garden on its property. This garden, known officially as the Interpretive Garden, was full of pallets repurposed as beds. I was given free reign, told to plant as many different crops as I wanted; this garden, as the closest one to the building, was primarily used for tours and should include a sampling of all the crops that the Inn grows. As a Type A personality perfectionist, I spent the entire spring taking pictures of seed packets, comparing varieties, researching growing conditions, diagramming the various beds, and generally planning my entire summer at my garden. Then, school ended, and I started prepping the beds and planting. I learned that I did not know what I was doing in the slightest. None of my plans were on schedule. I couldn’t find half the seeds I had taken pictures of. I was inefficient and spent so much time meticulously watering and weeding the few things I had planted that it took weeks to plant anything new. So I had to stop planning, stop being so detail-oriented, and take it a day at a time. As the director of the Good Samaritan Inn, Stacey Brohard, told me many times, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” Gradually I managed to chill out a bit, to plant each crop, to get everything watered. I worked more and more efficiently, learning that not every weed needed to be pulled. Not everything I planted grew, but as with any project I start, I was incredibly dedicated. I volunteered extra hours; I shortened my lunch breaks to ten-minutes (some days I didn’t take a lunch break at all, but that only worked when my mom wasn’t at work), all in order to spend that little bit of extra time pulling a weed, adding some compost, or watering a dry bed. I loved my plants, and I remember how proud I was when I harvested my lettuce for the first time, when I saw the first bell peppers forming on the plants, when I got to taste the collards that I actually grew and harvested. It was an amazing feeling.
However, as much as I loved the gardening aspect of my time at the Good Samaritan Inn, I loved the people I met even more. As that one nerdy girl with few friends at school, this was my first experience with family outside of my blood relatives. I cracked jokes with Stacey, the director, and Kenny, one of the carpenters building greenhouses for the Inn. I listened to Bertha’s stories about her children and grandchildren, and I even made friends with the kitchen staff, whom I rarely saw. As much as I was trying to make a difference in people’s lives with my garden, the people at the Inn also made a huge difference in my life. They taught me more than school ever did, things like how to use a screwdriver and drive a tractor, as well as more important things like how to loosen up in front of people, how to be open and express myself, and how to be myself with no shame or insecurity. The Good Samaritan Inn gave me exactly what I had been needing; confidence and support and family. It taught me how much I was worth, and it changed my whole attitude.
I almost wonder why I was surprised that the Inn was changing me; it naturally rehabilitates people. It did so for my mom, who was struggling with the death of my dad when she was hired. It gave her a goal, and she progressed from storeroom organizer to manager of the Inn, and now to advancement coordinator. In the same way, I went from a constantly stressed-out workaholic to a much less stressed-out person with the ability to relax occasionally. I gained confidence and became more extroverted as I got more comfortable there. The Inn does the same for so many people; some of the cooks have barriers to employment, and many indoor employees started out eating in the dining room. The people I gardened with were no different. One man, who had previously been incarcerated, was the first person to teach me how to use gardening tools, and he would always tell me to go inside and take a break when it was too hot outside. One woman, who was working toward her GED, loved plants so much, she would put in extra time to help me water my peppers or lettuce on a hot day. They taught me a lot about people in general and showed me that I could never really judge anyone.
The Good Samaritan Inn manages to bring out these people’s good qualities through its two programs, Mercy Kitchens and Mercy Gardens. These programs are advertised to the Inn’s patrons, the people who eat in the dining room, and they teach the soft skills necessary for employment, including showing up to work on time, filling in a time sheet, and using proper work etiquette. As a volunteer, not all of this applied to me, but I definitely had to learn how to work with others, how to stand up for myself, and how to be responsible. The programs also teach hard skills; Mercy Kitchens teaches students how to cook and do other restaurant jobs, while Mercy Gardens teaches about gardening and most of the farm-to-table process, from weighing produce to shucking corn to rinsing tomatoes. These programs are completely free, provided the students put in extra volunteer hours. In other words, the Good Samaritan Inn uses food and food-related skills to rehabilitate people in poverty. We do not just provide the hungry with healthy meals, we teach them to grow the food, to provide for themselves, and to find employment. We provide them with the tools to eat healthy food and get themselves out of poverty. It fascinated me how food can be so much more than food, how it can be a tool used to help people.
This summer, I was an honorary member of the Mercy Gardens class. My class time was spent working in my garden, but I graduated along with the other students and received a certificate. I was by far the youngest graduate, as these programs are focused on helping adults. My goal is to change that. This summer, I will be returning to my garden, and I would like to adapt the Mercy Gardens program to target high school students in poverty-stricken areas of Decatur. I do not think we should wait until these teenagers are unemployed adults. We should be proactive, advertise to the high schools in town, give students the skills necessary to find employment after high school. I would like to offer small camps to give kids a taste of what gardening is like, to help them see whether this is a possible career path for them. It would also give them some working experience, something to put on a résumé to help them get into colleges or score better jobs. This way, we would fight the cycle of poverty before it has a chance to take hold completely of these kids. We would encourage teenagers to find jobs before they fall prey to collecting welfare over working. At the same time, we would encourage these students to eat healthy, and we would provide them with the skills to do so.
I can say from my experience in gardening that I was far more likely to eat a vegetable that I grew myself than one that I bought at the store. While I took the mandatory semester health class at my high school, the charts and diagrams never encouraged me to eat kale as much as harvesting it from my garden did. Providing the Mercy Gardens class to high school students, thereby giving them the tools to start their own gardens, would expose them to many different vegetables and show them how delicious fresh produce can be. Pairing this class with the Mercy Kitchens class would then teach these students how to prepare this produce. They would learn the whole farm-to-table process. One of the largest problems with food in poverty is the lack of cheap and healthy food available. Teaching high school students how to grow and cook their own food would discourage them from buying cheap candy or fast food and make healthy food affordable and readily available. Adding high school level Mercy Gardens and Mercy Kitchens programs would give these students both the tools to eat healthy and the skills to find employment after high school.
I recently submitted a paper very similar to this one as a scholarship application to conferences in Europe about the future of food. I did not get the scholarship, but I still believe strongly that the future of food lies in the philosophy at the Inn. The programs at the Inn could do so much good, not just in the city of Decatur, Illinois, but also in many other communities throughout the world. They could transform soup kitchens from just feeding the hungry to keeping people from becoming hungry. They could change the very culture of poverty by bringing people out of the cycle of welfare and unhealthy food before they are even trapped in it. I believe this is truly the future of food; soup kitchens doing more than just feeding the hungry and treating one aspect of the sickness of poverty, instead reducing the amount of hungry people by offering programs that use food to increase employability, thereby immunizing against poverty.
The most important lesson I took from my summer at the Good Samaritan Inn is how important food is. To start with, it’s at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; without it, people cannot progress and focus on creativity or happiness or learning. But food also changes and affects us all. Growing food gave me confidence and friendship and peace. Helping to provide it to the poor gives my mom joy and purpose. Knowing how to grow it and cook it gives the people in the Mercy Kitchens and Mercy Gardens classes self-sufficiency and employability. Food can do so much more than feed us; it can be used to change our lives.
By 7010967493 10 Jan, 2017
This year's culinary cook-off is just around the corner. This is a great evening of fun and good food while raising funds for the Inn's programs. Make you plans to join us this year. Tickets go on sale Feb. 1st!
By kristen.moser 19 Dec, 2016

Ice melt for the parking lot

Large #10 size cans of fruit

Garden gloves

Monkey bowls (ask us)

Spoons and Forks


Paper plates

Laundry soap

Dawn dish soap

Ground beef


By kristen.moser 12 Dec, 2016

I never thought I would be writing a blog post, however, when you have something worth sharing it needs to be shared! The first time I spoke to our board about creating training programs and building a food production system for the Inn, I had no idea how fast things would fall into place.

Two years ago, we began this journey of offering job skills training to the many people who use our free noon meal program. We believe there are many individuals who want to return to work but are unable to navigate past the barriers they have encountered throughout their life. From very humble beginnings, our culinary program has blossomed into a wonderful process of coaching and walking with students toward their new personal successes. The food production has grown from a simple city garden lot into 5.5 acres of food producing lots.

Each day I am amazed as I watch the students learn new skills as they create the different components for the programs. We have planted orchards, won culinary competitions, constructed greenhouses, catered business lunches, and held graduations. Through all of this, the students have grown. This year, we are launching our new motto which we will carry into our 35th year of service: “Growing Better Together.” Together we surround each other with opportunities for personal and professional growth. When this is done well we continually become better at what we do and better for each other.

Our focus for our 35th year depends more heavily on our community development efforts. We succeeded in using abandoned city lots for local food production, thereby creating much needed jobs.  We have improved our programs by combining them into a field to table training model. Now it is time to turn this into a community wide effort that would beautify abandoned areas of Decatur while creating a local food system that would provide even more jobs.

I would encourage you to join us on this journey. We can use the wisdom and talent you have to offer. Blessings to you and I hope to hear from you soon.

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