Joseph "Bubby" Knott and Kristine Millen president/director of St. Mary's Soup Kitchen.
HOLLYWOOD, Md. (May 5, 2022)—For decades the Brass Rail Sports Bar on Route 5 just south of Callaway has been a major gathering place for parties and softball games, but since its closure during the pandemic and its sale by its owners Charles and Hilda Gatton, it has sat vacant.
Joseph "Bubby" Knott, owner of the Great Mills Trading Post construction company bought the property and has since donated it to the St. Mary's Caring Soup Kitchen.
"We've already done it," Knott told The County Times this week. "It's going to a good place."
Knott gave a simple reason why he made the donation of the property.
"I like them," Knott said of the soup kitchen, which has operated since 1993.
"We both think it's for a good cause," said Karen Siebert, Knott's daughter. "They [the Gattons] were older and I assumed it was a good time for them to get out."
Siebert said she and her father knew the leadership board at the soup kitchen was looking for a way to expand to continue serving a burgeoning clientele of needy residents.
"They went to look at it [the sports bar] to buy it," Siebert said. "We met with them and decided we wanted to give it to them."
Kristine Millen, executive director and one of the board of directors for the soup kitchen, said they were ready to accept that there was little chance of being able to find a new home for their operation until Knott stepped in with the donation.
"We outgrew where we are now long before COVID-19," Millen said. "We never skipped a beat during COVID. "We never missed a day."
The pandemic brought more needy people to the soup kitchen, Millen said, since many had lost jobs and incomes due to government restrictions on restaurants and other service industries being open.
Volunteers continued to cook for the soup kitchen from their own homes, Millen said, and provided take away meals for the needy who continued to come to the soup kitchen.
Last year the soup kitchen provided 120,000 meals, Millen said, which is a vast increase from the 4,000 they served when they first opened almost 30 years ago.
Today, they provide between 75 to 150 meals a day at the soup kitchen or through a drive-thru service there; volunteers also prepare about 55 boxes of food to support needy families.
"We feed people every day," Millen said.
Knott was aware of just how many people came to the soup kitchen each day, as well.
"You can't even get into the joint," Knott said. "It is a big deal," Millen said of Knott's donation. "He's generous.
"He's given back so much to the county."
More than a gift to the soup kitchen, the donation of the Brass Rail was a gift to the community, Millen said.
"This will be our last home," Millen said. "We won't have to move again."
More than just a place to feed the needy, the soup kitchen also partners with MedStar St. Mary's Hospital, the Harm Reduction office of the county health department and flu vaccination clinics to provide health services.
"This is a safe space for our people," Millen said.
For years the soup kitchen had worked with principals of local Title I schools, those with students who faced the most economic disadvantages, and provided them and their families with food assistance.
"They were the neediest of the needy," Millen said.
During the pandemic, the soup kitchen opened that program—known as Feed the Family program—to all of the county's public schools.
The new space will also offer vastly more space than the limited amount they have available now at the Lutheran church near the intersection of Route 5 and Great Mills Road.
That site has just 2,200 square feet available compared to the more than 11,000 square feet at the Brass Rail, Millen said.
"Nobody's going to be cramped," Millen said. "It's beyond comprehension, this gift.
"We're a safety net and it will continue to be here is a great way."
The Brass Rail property will have to undergo a renovation, Millen said, but once that is completed, St. Mary's Caring will be able to use all of the space in the facility, the demand is so great.
"The words 'Thank you' don't begin to summarize how important this is," Millen said of St. Mary's Caring's new home. "We're grateful to have had this.
"We're Southern Maryland's only full-time soup kitchen."
Knott said much of the accoutrements of the Brass Rail are still in the building, such as tables and chairs, as well as a full kitchen.
"When I give you something, it's yours," Knott said. "All they've got to do is bring some bread and some soup."
For more local stories from the County Times newspapers, visit countytimes.somd.com or find a copy on local news stands.