BOULDER CREEK -- Tables covered with offerings are set up every week inside St. Michael's Catholic Church, bowls filled with a quinoa vegetable medley, macaroni and cheese, steamed and leafy greens, garlic bread and apple crisp.

"This is a banquet to me," said Gary Riich, a 62-year-old Watsonville handyman who took a more than two-hour bus ride Friday for the free meal. As much of the food as possible is organic, drawing Riich and others to enjoy an hour of companionship while dining on the food prepared and served by members of the Universal Church of Baba's Kitchen.

The church trains healers, shares ancient teachings and helps the homeless and residents in need, with a particular focus on veterans.

Four members live on a rented, 1.6-acre plot on Empire Grade in Bonny Doon, north of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. But the landlord plans to sell the land, and members are trying to raise the roughly $250,000 required for a down payment. A page set up on the online fundraising site Razoo.com has so far netted $17,000 in the last month, said church co-founder Jonathan Rosen.

Baba's Kitchen is more a way of thinking than a religion, "of understanding how the laws of nature operate," and members consider Jesus Christ "the top-most example of the divine energy in a human form," he said.


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The organization won Valley Churches United Mission's "Angel Of The Year" Award in 2011, two years after members began serving the meals, and four years after receiving nonprofit status. In addition to the free lunches, the church offers life-counseling sessions, distance "healing sessions," and healings and hospice trainings to veterans suffering from PTSD, all provided on a sliding-fee scale.

"They've sacrificed so much for this country and they've gotten not nearly enough support to date," Rosen said. "It's too hard for them, and the Veterans Administration is too difficult to negotiate for many of them ... so if we can provide some relief, some healing help to them, we feel like we're doing a service to the whole country."

The church is open to all religions and beliefs, even to people such as Riich, who called himself "neutral" and has a list of churches that offer free lunches. In fact, he found out about Baba's Kitchen's Friday afternoon meals at the Presbyterian church in Felton, which offers its own free meals on Tuesdays.

If the church is able to buy the land, Rosen said, "we can continue serving the healing needs of our members and local community uninterrupted."

Follow Sentinel reporter Kimberly White on Twitter at Twitter.com/kwhite95066

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: Universal Church of Baba's Kitchen
FOUNDED: Co-founded in 2007 by Alx Uttermann and Jonathan Rosen
NEEDS: Seeking $250,000 in donations so members can purchase a 1.6-acre plot on Empire Grade
INFORMATION: 831-425-3234 or babaskitchen@123mail.org or www.karmatalk.com