It might sound unusual for a human resource agency to be the first place you think of when you need a caterer for your upcoming event. However, given the dedication and work ethic of South Central Human Resource Agency’s Nutrition Services staff, it should come as no surprise that they have become precisely that. SCHRA is honored to be chosen by Elk Valley Times readers as Lincoln County’s Finest in the Catering category for 2023.
SCHRA’s Nutrition Services Program provides meals year-round for senior nutrition programs such as Meals on Wheels and congregate meals at area senior centers. These meal programs are often minimally funded, and the need for them is constantly growing. Over the years the agency found itself looking for ways to supplement state grants in order to fill the gaps in funding to maintain kitchen equipment and provide meals for as many clients as possible.
This need for additional funds is where the idea for the Catering Program was born. Catering dollars pay for the cost of food, utility maintenance, and the labor cost of each job. The remaining money goes directly to the Nutrition Services Program. “About 17 years ago, I was asked to come in and help start up a catering program here, and I’ve been here ever since,” said Nutrition Services Director Becky Christa. She has since progressed from heading up catering to directing all meal services provided by SCHRA. “I may not be the Catering Coordinator anymore, but it’s still my baby,” Christa added.
With a background in meal service and catering, Christa has passed on her knowledge of the industry to staff throughout her years at SCHRA, including current Catering Coordinator Ashley Roland. Roland has been with SCHRA for going on 10 years now and has spent much of her time with the agency in the kitchen and working catering events, as well as managing data for Nutrition Services. Ella Brown started working with the catering program in 2019, and she became an invaluable asset as well. “A lot of the times it was just Ashley and Ella at events,” Christa remarked. More recently, the program welcomed Patty Moore and Mary Burton to their regular staff. Longtime Nutrition Services staff members Becky Patterson and Dianne Edwards often assist in preparing meals for events, in addition to their normal daily food preparation for senior meals.
“It’s usually just two of us that work events, but we pull in other people as needed, depending on how big of an event we are catering,” said Roland. Sometimes others working with Nutrition Services come in to help, such as the program’s office manager, Lea Richardson, and other times staff from other SCHRA programs volunteer to lend a hand transporting and serving food and drinks. Even the agency’s Deputy Director, Sara Brown, is known to have worked on quite a few events over the years.
SCHRA offers a wide range of options in terms of catering services. Since the program began, SCHRA has catered events in settings ranging from Huntsville, Alabama, to Nashville and Spring Hill, Tennessee. Events are often catered at the client’s venue, but the conference room at SCHRA’s central office location is available for clients looking for a location to rent. For smaller events or occasions, meals may be prepared and picked up at the central office or staff may come to a local venue and set up food and drinks for events that don’t require servers on hand.
When asked about the variety of items available to be served, Christa said, “We used to have more of a set menu, but these days we can fix pretty much whatever someone wants—as long as we have time to plan it!” Staff are prepared to serve everything from finger foods and light refreshments to a full-scale formal dinner with dessert for functions ranging from a small family gathering to a wedding with 400 or more guests. Holidays and the summer wedding season are often their busiest times of the year, so clients have the best luck securing their booking by contacting program staff as early as possible.
Pictured (L-R): Ashley Roland, Mary Burton, Patty Moore, and Becky Christa