Thousands of nonperishable food products lined the hallway of the Kitchen Pass restaurant on Saturday, hauled off in only a few minutes by the Missouri Southern State University football team.

The student-athletes offered a hand for the end of JOMO Restaurant Week, a biannual event in which local eateries offer specials or discounts in exchange for donations to the emergency food pantry at Crosslines Ministries.

More than 60 MSSU students on the football team spent their Saturday morning volunteering with Crosslines and collecting food donations from participating restaurants. A group of volunteers from Rooted Church in Joplin also contributed, picking up food from remaining locations and unpacking it at Crosslines.

Tyler Evans, 20, a sophomore cornerback at Missouri Southern, is new to the Joplin area, and he said projects such as this one give him the opportunity to make a good first impression. He recently transferred from Garden City Community College in Kansas and is attending his first semester at MSSU.

“We want to make the community better and be great stewards to the city of Joplin,” Evans said. “I have no problem helping out such a beautiful community. Not every community is willing to give out food, and it shows a lot about Joplin. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

Jeff Sims, MSSU’s head football coach, said it’s integral for the team to get involved with the people who support their games, and he hopes to push his players to become more involved with future service projects.

“We want to be out there and represent the community so that they’re proud of us,” Sims said. “If we want people to come support us on Saturdays, then we need to come support them on their Saturdays. We’re looking to do things every Saturday in the spring.”

‘A great cause’

JOMO Restaurant Week is Crosslines’ largest annual food drive, and donors have contributed 16 tons of food to the ministry’s pantry over the past three years. In 2018, Crosslines Ministries served nearly 1,900 people per month and provided groceries to 3,000 people through its crisis food pantry.

Rodney Rambo, Crosslines director, said staff look forward each year to the event because it helps benefit the 220 families who use the pantry each month.

“Seeing all of this food in here is overwhelming, and it shows how much our local community and business owners care about their neighbors,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. We’re so fortunate.”

Marsha Pawlus, owner of Kitchen Pass and Wilder’s Steakhouse, said her two restaurants have participated every year since JOMO Restaurant Week started.

“It’s such a great cause, and Crosslines helps so many people put food on their tables,” Pawlus said. “We need to let these people know that there’s a need out there. We get a good response every year.”

The Kitchen Pass, which is normally used as an event center, opens its restaurant to serve specials during JOMO Restaurant Week. Pawlus described it as a reunion everyone looks forward to in January.

“We had Kitchen Pass for 29 years, and we closed it four years ago,” she said. “We use this space for events, and we always open for Christmas parade night. Then, it’s the same with this. It’s like a big reunion week for everybody.”

Now in its fourth year, the event last week saw the largest number of local participating restaurants, according to coordinator Erryn Jones, of SGC Foodservice, the sponsor. Participants who donated to the cause also had the chance to enter to win a grand prize valued at $500.

Participating restaurants

The 25 restaurants that participated in this year’s JOMO Restaurant Week were Blackthorn Pizza & Pub, the Bruncheonette, Carmine’s Wood Fired Pizza, Club 609, Del Rio Bordertown Cafe, Del Rio Grill & Cantina, Eagle Drive-In, Instant Karma, Granny Shaffer’s, Hackett Hot Wings, Han the Sushi Man, Horton’s Pizza Plus, Little Pigs BBQ, Kitchen Pass, MacCheesy, ME’s Place, M&M Bistro, Mojo Burger Co., Mythos, Old Broadway Club, Social BTB, Tropicana Bar & Grill, Turtleheads, Wilder’s Steakhouse and Woody’s Wood-Fire Pizza. The event was sponsored by SGC Foodservice, of Springfield.

From “The Joplin Globe”