“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” – Alan D. Wolfelt

Meals have served as a conduit for fellowship and love for centuries and spans across cultures and oceans. Hand UP for Women views food as just that – a time to serve their women and show their support and caring.

Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, our Hand UP for Women participants gather for a heartwarming dinner before their class sessions. It’s a cherished time for them to bond, exchange stories from their days, and gear up for the upcoming lessons. Graciously prepared by dedicated volunteers such as Anita Coward and Kay Smith, these dinners are a culinary delight infused with care and compassion. It’s where the magic of camaraderie and cuisine intertwines, creating a nurturing environment essential to our program. This shared meal fosters a sense of belonging and encouragement among our participants, making it an indispensable cornerstone of our initiative.

Two Ladies, One Mission


Anita Coward and Kay Smith love cooking. Though the two don’t know each other, each had a friend encourage them to use their unique skill sets to help others. “I wanted to help in that way,” Coward shared. She’s made roasts, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, green beans, cole slaw, hot tamales, Texas tornado cake and more.

When we asked, Coward explained, “I don’t know if they [participants] got too many home-cooked meals.”

Coward hopes to fill this void. She wasn’t shy to share at 73 years old her heart beats to a philanthropic rhythm. “I love helping people. If they need something, I’m there to help them,” Coward said.

Kay Smith’s story mirrors Coward’s. “I love to cook. Knowing that I can support women trying to make a change in their lives, it’s very humbling and rewarding to know my talent can be used to help others,” Smith said.

While her church, Belmont Heights Baptist, financially supports her monthly commitment, she too provides a meal monthly. This year Smith has made pot roast with potatoes; carrots and onions; chicken alfredo with spinach salad; and BBQ pork sandwiches with scalloped potatoes and tossed salad. Sometimes in the spring and summer Smith turns to her garden for fresh fruits and vegetables to add to her recipes.

“I don’t know if any of them come hungry but I don’t want any of them to leave hungry,” Smith said. “I want them to come to class knowing they are going to have something good to eat wherever they’re coming from. I want them to know the are welcomed, loved and appreciated. I can’t be there to physically greet them, but with what I’ve prepared for them, I hope they feel they make a difference.”

Whipping Up Love from a Young Age

Smith has been cooking her whole life. Growing up in a big family, Smith had a handful of children of her own. Now she has 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Cooking for a crowd is no sweat.

Coward has also been whipping up recipes since she was a pre-teen. She recalls cooking for her parents and seven siblings around 12 or 13 years old. Even as a child, she loved baking. “My grandmother would watch as I wrote down recipes and played pretend cooking.”

“I just love helping them and I love cooking for people, especially these ladies,” she shared. Coward feels as though there is love in the food she makes.

They’re Only Getting Started

Both ladies have no plans to stop any time soon. Coward said she loves it when she hears from the Hand UP team about tasting one of their favorite recipes or when they ask for the recipe. She said that’s special to her.

Smith hopes the participants see the important life skills cooking provides. “It’s a way to bring joy into someone’s life when there’s not a lot of joy there,” she said. Smith views her meals as a small piece of support to succeed in class.

When asked if the participants could take away one message from Coward’s meals she said, “Love. Love for others.”

If you are interested in helping provide meals contact Kim Davis at [email protected]. More information can be found under the “Volunteer Opportunities” section on the home page here.