Savannah’s largest homeless shelter, The Salvation Army, serves three meals to approximately 330 people each day. That would be nearly impossible without the help of one woman, The Salvation Army’s lead chef, Lotchie Coleman.
Coleman may not seem like your typical hero, but in her 32 years of service with The Salvation Army, she’s fed over 3.8 million hungry men, women and children.
“I’m truly amazed by Ms. Lotchie Coleman. She’s been doing this a long time,” says Captain Marion Platt, III, Corps Officer and Administrator of The Salvation Army. “She’s fed millions of people now. I truly believe she’s saved lives because of that.”
Cooking has always been a passion of Coleman’s. She grew up cooking for a family of five, cooked in her high school’s kitchen as a student, later got a job as a cook at a restaurant, and in 1979 began cooking for The Salvation Army.
She puts in the same amount of care cooking for 500 as she did when she was cooking for five.
“There’s something that Lotchie Coleman adds to her work. She adds quality to her work. There’s a difference between a feeding and a feast,” says Platt.
For Coleman, it’s important that people eating enjoy the food. In fact, that’s her favorite part of the job.
“My favorite part is cooking and just making sure everything tastes good and just to see somebody come back and say ‘Thank you. That was good.’”
Coleman’s been cooking for a lot longer than 32 years, since her mother first taught her growing up, and she’s learned a lot along the way.
“Cooking is something you get taught, but some things just come natural through fixing,” she says.
After 32 years with The Salvation Army, it’s safe to say she’s gotten preparing to feed lots of people down to a science.
“She has the unique ability to balance quantity and quality. Perhaps it takes 32 years to learn that,” says Platt.
Not only can Coleman make quality meals, but she can also do so using low-cost ingredients. The ingredients typically used come from canned food drives or from the local food bank.
“She makes the most amazing meals. People on the other side, they get the result. I see what she puts in and I’m thinking, OK,” says Platt.
In just meeting Coleman, you may just see a nice, quiet woman. But, don’t let that deceive you — she can command a kitchen.
“You see a shy, very soft–spoken lady, but I’m telling you she runs that kitchen like a drill sergeant,” says Platt.
It’s easy for Platt to tell when Coleman has commanded her kitchen and done her job well.
“When you walk into the dining room, there are people from all cultures and backgrounds, and everyone is quiet. That’s when Lotchie has done her work,” he says. “Everyone’s eating; they don’t want to talk.”
Coleman still enjoys what she does after all these years. She is delighted to have worked with The Salvation Army for as long as she has.
“I enjoy cooking and just serving the people, and I feel it’s a mission, a calling to help and be there,” she says.
Coleman’s looking forward to preparing yet another Christmas dinner. She’s already begun planning for preparing a meal to feed at least 500 people.
She has to begin planning this far in advance because the actual preparation of the meal begins a little less than a week before Christmas day.
Tentatively on the menu for this year’s Christmas feast is macaroni and cheese, ham, turkey, dressing, corn, green beans, sweet potatoes, and rolls along with apple pie, pecan pie and sweet potato pie for dessert.
If you’re interested in volunteering to help Lotchie Coleman in the kitchen or would just like to know more about The Salvation Army visit: