Frieda Holley has been providing hot meals to people in the Back of the Yards neighborhood for more than 30 years. Holley, the namesake of Frieda’s Place at Su Casa Catholic Worker House at 51st and Laflin streets, serves breakfast to everyone who turns up on Tuesdays and Thursdays and works with parishes and other groups to provide brunch on Sundays. For more than a year, she did it without a working oven in her kitchen. It wasn’t easy cooking everything on the stovetop, she said, but she made do. Then she mentioned it to Beth Marek, director of outreach for Old St. Patrick’s Parish, 700 W. Adams St. “I said pray for us, and maybe somebody will donate a new stove,” Holley said. A month later, Marek called back. She had people who had to get into Holley’s kitchen to prepare to install a new commercial range. Marek had reached out to her friend, chef Kathleen Frantz, to learn what it would take to replace the stove. “She said she had $4,000 for this, and Old St. Pat’s could do more fundraising if they needed to,” Frantz said. Frantz then called Nick Giagkou, who owns Olympic Store Fixtures with his sisters. She’d met Giagkou at a restaurant industry awards dinner and they kept in touch. Giagkou agreed to help, providing a range at cost and handling installation. Then he called a contact at Alpha Distributors, the supplier he works with, and she happened to be an Old St. Pat’s parishioner. When he explained the project, she agreed to forego a commission and provide it at her cost. Then, when Giagkou set up the new range, his company also donated new pots and pans, cooking utensils, oven mitts and hot pads and even T-shirts. “They got something like $15,000 worth of equipment for $4,000,” Frantz said. Giagkou, speaking by telephone, said it wasn’t hard to bring the project together. “Good things happen to good people,” he said. “Everyone wanted to help.” “A lot of people talk about doing things,” Frantz said. “Frieda is someone who does things.” For her part, Holley is grateful. While the soup kitchen serves breakfast and brunch, it’s not just breakfast food. She serves what she can get that will be hot and nutritious, and having an oven means at least part of the meal can be baked or roasted and she doesn’t have to stand over the stove stirring or watching it. But she didn’t seem all that surprised by the donation. God, she said, provides. Holley, 56, started feeding people in the neighborhood from the back door of her apartment shortly after she and her three sons moved out of a shelter and into an apartment across the street from Su Casa. She didn’t have the money for big outings, but she would pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and take the boys to the park for picnics. When they saw people digging in the park trash cans for food scraps, her sons would give away their sandwiches, and she started to tell the people who were looking for food to knock on her back door if they were hungry. “First it was one person, then two people, then 10 people,” she said. She started going to food pantries to get canned goods and using them to make big pots of soup. In the meantime, she got to know the members of the Catholic Worker community at Su Casa, including one of the founders, Brother Dennis Murphy. When Brother Dennis asked what the community needed, she said a soup kitchen. So they started one on the Su Casa campus, and she has run it ever since. Nowadays, Frieda’s Place serves anywhere from 25 people to 80 people each day it’s open, with fewer at the beginning of the month and more at the end of the month, after their monthly benefits run out. It was more before the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. During the pandemic, the kitchen maintained its schedule, never closing, even if it had to give to-go meals and bags of groceries, she said. There were times almost nobody came, but there was always someone, Holley said. “Even if we only fed one or two people, that was one or two people who needed it,” she said. Old St. Pat’s, St. Barnabas and Christ the King parishes in Chicago and Most Holy Redeemer parish in Evergreen Park have been helping for years, she said, part of the rotation of churches that provide Sunday brunches. Holley does the cooking for Tuesday and Thursday breakfasts; on a July Thursday, she had pork chops and scrambled eggs, along with coffee, coffeecake, bread and jam, and cold cereal. In the winter, there’s usually a pot of oatmeal. She also sorts and provides donations of clothing, toiletries, school supplies and really anything else her guests might need that she can get donated. Anyone who comes for breakfast by 9 a.m. is also welcome to use the bathroom to shower, she said. “I’ve had mothers bring their kids because they have no hot water at home,” Holley said. Asked how she supports herself, Holley laughed. She’s recently retired from her job as a crossing guard, and she has Social Security, she said. Her sons, the little boys she took to the park, are adults with jobs and families of their own. “They’d get me anything I need, but I don’t need much,” she said. “I’m one of God’s kids, and maybe he doesn’t pay me in money, but he pays me in blessings.” For more information about Frieda’s Place, visit friedasplacechicago.org.