EKU Hosts Event to Honor Bessie “Ma” Kelly

Published on October 12, 2022

By Sarah Bashford

Eastern Kentucky University will be hosting a Lunch with Ma event to celebrate the legacy of Bessie “Ma” Kelly in the Case Dining Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Kelly touched many lives in the Richmond community. As most locals remember, the restaurant, Ma Kelly’s, was located on Third Street and operated from the late 60s to late 90s. Kelly became known for her quality home-cooked meals offered at a fair price. An article remembering Kelly in the Feb. 6, 1997 issue of the Eastern Progress, stated that many people shared how the Kelly family “only charged them what they could afford to pay.”

Although Kelly passed away at the age of 90 more than two decades ago, her legend of generosity and feeding EKU students and the Richmond community is still remembered today. In the spirit of Kelly’s kindness, every lunch ticket purchased for the upcoming Lunch with Ma event will provide a meal for an EKU student in need.

According to a study conducted by Swipe Out Hunger, 1 in 3 college students face low food insecurity. This is categorized as difficulty getting adequate food, while more than 20 percent are rated very low food insecurity, which is chronic malnutrition from food scarcity.

The Office of Student Life and First Year Experience started the Colonel Cupboard in 2014 as a way to address food insecurity needs on EKU’s campus. Colonel’s Cupboard is a completely free and confidential resource to all EKU students. 

For the 2021-22 year, more than 600 students visited Colonel’s Cupboard and over 3,000 pounds of food was distributed. From July to September 2022, the Colonel’s Cupboard has already served 300 students and given out over 1,480 pounds of food.

“My overall goal for the Cupboard is for it to truly be a place where students feel they can belong. We all desire to be seen, heard and known,” said EKU’s Colonel's Cupboard Education Specialist Madelynne Banderman. “Having a sense of belonging, simply as a human being, along with a sense of belonging on one's college campus is crucial for success. When we do the work to ensure that students' basic needs are being met, we help to ensure student success in and out of the classroom.”

Tickets for the Lunch with Ma event are $25 each and can be purchased by visiting go.eku.edu/MaKellyTickets. The menu will include meatloaf, southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, apples cooked in corn syrup, Kentucky transparent pie with ice cream, and Kentucky butter cake cookies.