It’s one thing to feed your customers, but quite another to feed your community.

Emily Brice does both, serving both her catering and food cart customers and the volunteers who help her feed Payson’s homeless at Mount Cross Lutheran Church.

Brice makes meals for the homeless from donated meats, vegetables and groceries each week. Each dinner, served at 5 p.m., attracts up to 20 people.

The homeless dinner outreach program provides a warm meal, a place to clean up and connections to social services for those living on the street. While at dinner, those struggling can find help. Brice’s husband Skyler has a talent for connecting those with mental illness, drug dependence or other struggles. His goal is to find these folks a home and living a sustainable life.

That’s what Brice hopes to do through her businesses and homeless meal outreach.

To do that, she added a pinch of teaching into the mix.

She starts her training of life or career skills in the Confidence Kitchen, where she prepares food for the homeless. Each Monday, Brice and volunteers meet at 10 a.m. in the institutional kitchen at Mountain Bible Church.

If a volunteer shows an interest in learning to cook as a professional, Brice gives trainees real-world training and experience through her food truck or catering business.

“It’s not something taught in culinary school,” she said.

Not only careers, but community

Volunteers have found a home working in Brice’s kitchen, too.

In August, Brice had a kitchen of five committed volunteers who showed up to whip up dinners for six days.

“Sundays, we do breakfast for dinner,” said Brice.

Brice finds volunteers wherever she can.

“The community is always welcome.”

Susan Shellberg moved to Payson full-time in June. She immediately started scrolling through Facebook to find local online groups to learn about volunteer opportunities to meet people. Throughout her life, she found volunteering draws people she relates too, plus she feels useful.

“Emily posted on Facebook, and it was a Saturday, ‘Help! I need someone to help serve on Sunday night.’ So, I go and I serve at the warming center.”

Brice quickly asked her to come to the Monday Confidence Kitchen. Shellberg fit right in.

“And then the fires came,” said Shellberg.

As evacuees from Pine and Strawberry flooded into Payson, Mayor Tom Morrissey reached out to Brice to help. Brice can provide food for up to 400 people through her catering business. She revved up donations from the community and got to work.

Shellberg said she cooked seven days a week.

“We served at Mount Cross, breakfast, lunch and dinner,” she said.

From that point on, Shellberg was hooked on working in the Confidence Kitchen.

“Most important, it is feed the people,” she said.

Hope is the secret ingredient

Brice hopes the savory stew of learning a trade, volunteering and finding hope contributes to a healthy community.

During the last Saturday of September, Brice, her son and other assistants set up her newly built taco and hot dog cart in front of Back to Basics. She’s been away from her Saturday sales of tacos and all kinds of hot dogs for six months because back in May, Emily lost her cart as she drove home from hosting a Cinco de Mayo fundraiser for the Payson Homeless and Homeless Veterans Imitative.

But that didn’t stop her. The community got together and raised more than $4,000 for Brice to fix her cart. She hired a local wildland firefighter to work on it, but he got deployed so often it delayed completion.

“It gave me time to rest and work on priorities,” she said.

That included the creation of Brice’s mentorship program and a commitment to eating healthier.

Now, with her cart back in service, she’s ready to move ahead full steam on catering jobs and mentorships.

By 1 p.m., people had snapped up most of her Lyman Beef prime rib roast carne asada tacos. She rarely uses prime rib and had hoped to save this one until Christmas, “but times are tough,” she said as she bustled about, back to business.

Brice and her cart will now host a fundraiser later in October.

On Oct. 16, PHHVI will host a Halloween costume contest and block party to raise funds to continue to provide meals to the homeless every night.

At the event, PHHVI hopes to have donations of food pantry items or gift cards to local grocery stores. Other donations PHHVI can use include socks and underwear of all sizes.

“Or they can become a monthly sponsor by donating monthly,” she said.

Besides the costume contest, the event will have a bake sale, food vendors, health care agencies, coffee tasting by a local barista coffee maker, and live Halloween music.

“All donations go to help the warming center to continue our services to the community,” said Brice.

To book Brice for catering, call 928-951-3560. PHHVI always seeks donations. Mail checks to PHHVI, P.O. Box 2732, Payson, AZ 85541.

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