BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Folks line up starting at about 11:00 p.m. for a taste of "Mr. B's" lunch. For Bernard Jefferson, the work to fry 180 pieces of chicken starts much earlier.
Mr. B and his assistant chef, Isaac Albert, prepare the feast in a small, dark kitchen on North Foster in Baton Rouge.
"I'm not really a chef," Albert confessed. "I just love to cook."
The Abundant Living pantry is currently full, courtesy of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. However, it was not always that way. Mr. B opened his kitchen three and a half years ago, feeding the area's homeless and unemployed out of his own pocket.
"I served 19 people my first day," Jefferson said.
He already owned an empty diner, so Mr. B thought, "Why not put it to work?" Soon, what began as a one-day-a-week good deed turned into a calling.
"You see people on the streets hungry," he said. "Every corner you go to, you see somebody needing food, or a job, or a place to stay. I wanted to make a difference."
Even Jefferson himself has gone through the good times and the bad. Two years ago, thieves stole Mr. B's air conditioner and the compressor for his commercial cooler. Even through the past two sweltering summers, he and his volunteers never let a little sweat stop them. The roof is beginning to leak, but Mr. B and company serve around the drops. And when thieves got his stove, Mr. B simply cooked at home.
"I get joy out of what I do," Mr. B said. "I enjoy seeing the people come in and helping people."
Enough joy to close two successful hair salons and devote himself to feeding the needy full time.
Mr. B admits that he is still learning how to cook, as it is a skill he only recently picked up.
"I was incarcerated, and learned how to cook," he said.
For more than four years, Mr. B served inmates in federal prison while he was serving time. Now, he serves his fellow man with close to 200 meals a day.
Walter Love lost his job and his home nearly a year ago.
"If it wasn't for this place," Love said, "I wouldn't be eating today."
Comments like that keep Mr. B going.
"I was brought up in a rough area like this," he said. "Seen a lot of stuff. Been in a lot of stuff. It changed me."
And Mr. B is changing his corner of the world one meal at a time. The Abundant Living kitchen operates solely on donations.
This year, it received its official charitable organization designation. That allows the Food Bank to supply most of the food Mr. B needs. What he really needs, however, is help with repairs, and a cooling system. If you can help, contact Bernard Jefferson at 225-303-6552.