Nonprofit provides year-round help and holiday hospitality
When a massive fire and building collapse tragically claimed the lives of two firefighters at Independence and Prospect avenues on October 12, 2015, Scott Lamaster was there to comfort those who had lost a co-worker, a friend or their home. For 13 days he remained on the scene with his Greenwood-based nonprofit organization Taking it to the Streets, providing thousands of meals, bottles of water and protein bars to first responders investigating the fire.
“People have no idea the gamut of emotions that can exist for first responders after something like that,” Lamaster says. “Food is a comfort tool and our way of putting our arms around them and hugging them, letting them know they’re not alone.”
When emergency responders are on a scene for a longer period of time, Lamaster arrives with an emergency response trailer equipped with bathroom facilities, the first of its kind in the country. His volunteers set up tents with TVs, tables and chairs to provide a meal, a moment’s rest and a mental escape.
During the holiday season, Lamaster ramps up his organization’s efforts to show first responders they are honored, respected and appreciated for spending the holiday away from family. During Thanksgiving, he hopes to partner with Kansas City-area churches to provide meals to 500 on-duty first responders at 15 to 20 fire stations. For the Christmas season, his goal is to provide 1,000 meals to responders, plus his regular twice-weekly meal outreach to 125 KC-metro area homeless individuals.
Regardless of the time of year, Lamaster believes that the quality of food he serves communicates a message, and he wants to be known for serving the best food on the streets. Prime rib sandwiches, steak and potatoes, barbecue and apple pie with a scoop of frozen custard are some of his favorite meals to show he cares.
“We serve them a great meal like they’re a guest in our home because we want people to open up to us, communicate and build relationship,” Lamaster says. “I don’t care if they’re the president or if they’re a homeless person. They are going to get the same meal.”
This philosophy is portrayed in the scene that took place in front of Kansas City Police Department headquarters on Christmas day 2015. Lamaster contacted KCPD Major James Connelly to say he’d gotten a good deal on some steaks and that he’d like to serve on-duty police and fire personnel a good meal. Given the go-ahead, he set up his mobile kitchen at police headquarters. Word got out, and before long, the homeless people Lamaster serves weekly were streaming to police HQ for a steak dinner alongside on-duty police and fire personnel.
“He was feeding a multitude,” Connelly says. “Scott is a selfless citizen-partner with public safety. He gives without expecting anything in return, and that’s a noble position to take.”
Lamaster, a now-retired businessman, began his charitable efforts 15 years ago. As a single father, taking his three children out to serve the homeless of Kansas City was a means for instilling good values. Over the years, his efforts have expanded with a cadre of volunteers to provide aid to first responders and disaster victims, and in 2012, he incorporated Taking it to the Streets as a 501c3 nonprofit organization.
In May, Lamaster was presented with the Kansas City Police Department’s Meritorious Service Award for providing aid to the men and women of the KCPD.
While recognition may draw more enthusiasm, volunteers and funding for his efforts, Lamaster says his best recognition is to know he’s made a difference and to see lives changed.