Kayden Boilard stands with her parents, Kristie and Kevin Boilard, of Lewiston. The family began a food pantry at their home to help people in the community and it has grown from there. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Nearly three years ago, a 9-year-old Lewiston girl told her parents she wanted to do something to help needy families within the community. Her parents, Kristie and Kevin Boilard, were down with that and the food pantry they named Kaydenz Kitchen was opened soon after.

The pantry has been successful in a variety of ways, helping families and individuals to get back on their feet after falling on hard times. But for Kevin Boilard, the spirit of giving doesn’t end when he steps out the door. Recently, he had an experience with a well-known panhandler who stands with a sign near Walmart asking for odd jobs to help him pay for food.

Boilard decided on an impulse to take the man up on that offer, and the result was a written account of the experience that went viral on Facebook. Since Boilard’s encounter with the man named Jon, others have stopped to offer Jon work, as well.

We asked Boilard questions about that experience and about Kaydenz Kitchen as a whole. Here’s what the philanthropic Lewiston man had to say.

What is Kaydenz Kitchen and how long have you been around? Kaydenz Kitchen Food Pantry is a 501C3 nonprofit organization that helps families in the Lewiston-Auburn area who are experiencing food insecurity and clothing needs. Kaydenz Kitchen started in February of 2017 when our daughter, Kayden, wanted to find a way to give back to families in need. We started delivering food care packages from our home and are now operating a 2,000+ square-foot facility in downtown Lewiston.

What prompted you to stop and talk to the man with the sign? I stopped by Walmart to grab a few bookshelves for the pantry one Saturday morning. On my way out, I noticed a gentleman standing on the corner of the parking lot exit and he was holding a sign that read “Hungry odd jobs needed” and “Homeless please help.” This is a fairly common thing to see these days, but something felt different. I was unable to stop when the light turned green, but I pulled into the business park down the road and walked over to see him with a box of Cheerios and a couple dollars. After talking to him for a couple minutes I started to walk back to my vehicle. About three-quarters of the way back, something was telling me to go back and see if he really want to work. I walked back over and offered him $20, out of our personal money, to come help put some book shelves together. Without hesitation he replied “Absolutely.” He said that he was a Jack-of-all-trades and would love to help.

What was Jon like? In my short time with Jon, he came across as someone who was down and out in life and doing what he could to get from one day to the next. He talked about his time in jail and some of the mistakes he made along the way. He told me some stories about some generous individuals that have helped him out and about some really nasty people he has met along the way. Jon was a very hard worker while he was helping out and was fully committed to working every minute he could while we were at the pantry. He was very grateful for the opportunity and wished more people took the time to hear his story and get to know him more before assuming the worst. Before he left, he offered for me to pick him up the next day and he would come by and do some work for free.

Has this experience changed your view of panhandlers in any way? My experience with Jon was a true eye-opener and exactly what I needed at my point in life. Panhandlers are normally viewed as lazy drug addicts who don’t feel like working a normal job. I’m sure there are a percentage of the homeless community who support that theory. I personally believe some of these people have received life’s worst breaks or lack the basic support systems the average person benefits from. Yes, a good percentage of the time their actions in life are the main cause for their situation, but there are way too many variables involved to assume they are all one in the same. Jon seemed to be extremely motivated to work and was a man of his word during my time with him. His sign wasn’t asking for money or free handouts, it was asking for someone to give him an opportunity to earn what he needed. All I did was give him the opportunity so many people assume he is not genuine about asking for. I can imagine his criminal record, his physical disability (Jon walked with an obvious limp), lack of a physical address, and unstable job history are all major challenges for him landing steady employment. It’s safe to say he would lose out on any job opportunity against anyone with the most basic resume, due to his current situation. I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet Jon and hear his story. He hasn’t walked a rose petal path in life and takes full ownership for the bad choices he has made to get where he is at today. I think of so many people’s stories, and wonder where would they be today if no one gave them another chance in life. Everything happens for a reason! I truly hope that my experience with Jon added as much value to his life as it did mine.

What’s the latest at Kaydenz Kitchen? It has been an amazing year for Kaydenz Kitchen Food Pantry. This year Kayden was the recipient of the U.S. Cellular 16 Under 16 Future of Good Humanitarian Award and the American Red Cross Heroes Among Us Award, for her work with the food pantry. She was also highlighted as a Community Champion by Channel 8 news. The food pantry finalized our partnership with the Good Shepherd Food Bank and are currently in a partnership agreement with Walmart as well! The pantry now provides baked goods from the Italian Bakery and homemade meals by an amazing member of the community. We recently expanded our operating facility to over 2,000 square feet and have launched a Resale Closet, with all proceeds benefiting the food pantry.

Kaydenz Kitchen Food Pantry is located at 550 Lisbon St. in Lewiston. Our current food pantry hours are Tuesday to Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m.


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