Longtime cook loved serving up hot meals to the needy

Alberta Denson cooked meals for the needy for nearly 34 years.

For Alberta Denson, a long-time cook at Titusville’s Salvation Army soup kitchen, it was all about loving and helping people.

For nearly 35 years, from July 1986, to December 2020 when the kitchen closed, Denson showed that love by cooking hot meals for whoever needed one.

Steve Vick a divisional director for service extension at the North Central Brevard Salvation Army, cited financial issues for the kitchen’s closing.

“We needed to make difficult decisions, because we couldn’t continue to do everything,” he said.

As long as the doors were open, Denson served nutritious meals for 60 to 80 people, five and sometimes six days a week.

Before there was an actual kitchen, she cooked in an old trailer. In those early days, she also operated the homeless shelter.

“People get down on their luck and go through hard times, but they still need to eat. My heart goes out to them,” she said.

If someone showed up late after the kitchen closed, Denson could not turn anyone away hungry.

“I would give them a plate to go,” she said.

Pam Gheen was one of the volunteers who assisted Denson.

“Alberta was dedicated to her job. She loves people and worked hard to make sure they had a good dining experience and that everything was kept clean,” Gheen said. “She ran the kitchen efficiently and planned everything in advance.”

Gheen has had the pleasure of sampling Denson’s tasty wares, such as beef and macaroni, chicken and rice, spaghetti with meat sauce, as well as Thanksgiving dinners.

“If we couldn’t think of a name for something she put together, we would call it Pasta Alberta,” Gheen said.

Tammy Tucker, who collected food for the effort, recalled Denson’s culinary creativity.

“She could make delicious meals from almost anything,” Tucker said.

Denson occasionally runs into volunteers such as Gheen.

“They tell me the soup kitchen couldn’t have run without me,” Denson said. “I say I couldn’t have done it without them.”

These days, Denson prepares her delights mainly for herself and her son. She looks forward to cooking again for her large family when the pandemic is over.

She fondly remembers her years at the Salvation Army.

“I enjoyed the job, the people and helping them,” she said.