You Get What You Give

An interview with Shelly from "MyShelly's Kitchen"

Posted by Nancy Lee on March 09, 2024

It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35 ESV).

I was finally sitting across from the woman I wanted to meet for three years. Shelly, the owner of Myshelly’s Kitchen was a hero to me. At the height of the pandemic, God used her to answer my prayer. My twenty-year-old daughter, Mariah, was sick with COVID, and I was fourteen hundred miles away. Shelly answered the phone at her restaurant and responded to my desperate plea to find someone to deliver soup to my daughter. If you missed that story on my blog, click here to read it.

I recently stopped at Myshelly’s Kitchen for lunch while I visited my daughter in Florida. I introduced myself to Shelly, and she greeted me with a smile and a hug. “Oh yes, I remember you,” she said, “you were the lady from New York. Come back on Sunday, and I will tell you my story.”

When I arrived on Sunday, Shelly handed me a bottle of cold water and sat down across from me.

“So you want to know the story behind Myshelly’s Kitchen?”

“Yes, that’s why I’m here.”

“It’s quite a story,” she said as she smiled and looked at me with her penetrating hazel eyes. “I opened this restaurant to help my father after my mother died. My mother used to do everything for him, and when she died, he started eating everything out of cans.”

Shelly explained that at the time, she and her husband split their time living between Fort Lauderdale and Ohio. They started coming to Arcadia every weekend to take care of her father.

“We were flying or driving all the time to take care of Dad every weekend, and it was just too much,” she said. She and her husband made the drastic choice of relocating to nearby Port Charlotte. They transformed a former bookstore and ice cream shop into a restaurant in Arcadia.

Shelly grew up in Arcadia on a farm where her dad still lives. She grew up in an era when everybody knew everybody else and watched out for one another. “We had cattle, pigs, and chickens. We fed the whole neighborhood. It was the barter system. Everyone traded to make sure everyone had what they needed,” she said.

With Shelly as a restaurant owner, not only did her father always have food to eat, but it got him out of the house and back involved in the community. He eats breakfast or lunch at the restaurant every day, and that is where people find him. “He is an electrical engineer,” Shelly said. “People come to him when they have electrical problems they can’t solve, and he helps them. He isn’t much into technology, but everyone knows they can find him here.”

Shelly explained that most of her customers are the people she grew up with. “I am so blessed. I have the most magnificent customers,” she said. “Everything I have in here is from them. There is a story behind everything—from the pictures on the wall to the napkins, to that couch over there, and the dishes.”

“I noticed your beautiful China when we ate here,” I said.

“It is Franciscan Desert Rose. I started by using my mother’s and godmother’s China. People from all over the country, even as far as Alaska, started sending me more China to match.”

Then I asked her how she got involved with feeding the homeless.

Shelly explained that when she first opened the restaurant, homeless people were sleeping out front. “There is a large homeless population here because the cost of living is high, and wages are low. People just can’t afford to live.

“And there was a mother and her two little daughters who used to live out back. It broke our hearts. We clothed and fed them. The social worker next door told me I had to turn them into Social Services. I did, and they went to live with their grandmother. A couple of years later the mother died of an overdose. It was so hard. The girls still come in here with their grandmother to eat on Sundays. I get to treat them like queens.”

Also, early on, Shelly started hiring addicts to try to clean them up and rehabilitate them. “It has been a hard lesson. I can’t hire more than one at a time anymore because it is just too hard emotionally, physically, and mentally.”

She explained that the one rehab worker she has now has been with her for seven years on and off. “She got hooked with the wrong group of people and started using drugs. We paid for her to go to rehab twice. She just got out of jail, and we took her back because she has kids, and we knew no one else would hire her.”

Instead of hiring people with addictions, she started hiring others with special needs. “I hire autistic young adults who would have a hard time finding a job, women struggling to break away from abuse, and people trying to overcome homelessness.”

When I asked her who funds all the food they give away, she said it is hard to explain. “I was always taught ‘You Get What You Give,’ and that is exactly how it has worked. I am very blessed. My husband and I don’t owe anything.

“We’ve been very blessed because when I got sick, I had to shut down the restaurant for a month, and when I was in the hospital someone anonymously paid …”

“Wait, what?” I said, “Can you please slow down?”

Shelly laughed. “I told you it was quite a story. You can’t make this stuff up.” Then she filled in the details. She had an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine. She wasn’t feeling well, so she lay down in her side room, and she never woke up. Her staff found her and called 9-1-1. She remembers waking up in the hospital and being told by the doctors that she was lucky to be alive. “I am still alive for a purpose,” she said, “everything happens for a reason.”

She went on to explain that while she was in the hospital someone came to the bank and paid off her debt. “We still don’t know who did it.”

“So this really is God’s work here,” Shelly and I said at the same time which caused us both to smile.

“Yes, I don’t even know how to tell you. I am so blessed,” she said.

“When I got out of the hospital, a young man who had worked for me for three or four years and had never spoken a word in the restaurant said his very first words. He said, ‘Don’t you ever leave me again!’” From that moment on, he continued to talk.

After he graduated, Shelly and her husband wanted to help him out. “He decided he wanted to become a lineman, so we sent him to school for that and to get his CDL license. After a while, I figured that he must have finished the program, and I asked him if he had started looking for a job.

“‘Why?’ he said, ‘I have a job.’

“After spending several hours one day helping him write his resume, I had to fire him so he would find a job as a lineman. He now makes thirty-five dollars an hour and supports himself.”

“What an incredible story,” I said.

“Getting back to your question about feeding the homeless; we currently feed 184.”

“Per month? Per week?” I asked.

“Oh, no, that is every day, and we give out clothes and blankets once a week.”

“Your numbers blow me away. How do you do it?” I asked.

Shelly laughed. “I don’t do it myself,” she said. “Everybody is so kind. We all work together. We scratch each other’s backs."

She went on to explain that she works with several different churches and Faith Missions, and they get food donations from places like Winn Dixie, Sysco, and Boars Head Meats. “And from a lot of individuals like my good friend, Max Fitzpatrick,” Shelly said as she pointed to a portrait of an older gentleman hanging near the cash register.

Then she told me his story. He was a former teacher who supported her restaurant from the start. “He would come in and say, ‘Ring up a lot of sandwiches.’ He knew I would find people who needed them. When he got cancer, we took care of him for three-plus years. I didn’t know it at the time, but it turns out he was a multi-millionaire.

“Max gave me everything when he was alive—his friendship, his love, his hospitality. And he inspired his whole senior community to become customers and volunteers.”

Shelly pointed out that Max was just one example of how people work together in her network. “He wanted to help the homeless, and he knew I could make it happen. I have connections with everybody in Arcadia since I grew up here, so people come to me with their needs and with their resources to share.”

Here is another example Shelly gave me of how it works: Someone emailed her about a local veteran who lost her leg in service to our country. She needed a prosthesis. Shelly traded services with an orthopedic group of doctors from Orlando who are regulars at Myshelly’s Kitchen to get the woman what she needed.

And when Shelly discovered what her living conditions were, she bought a therapeutic bed and had it delivered to her. She used this idea for a special Christmas project and delivered therapeutic beds to other local veterans in need.

I gazed at the woman sitting across from me. The woman who was the answer to my prayer, and I thought about the hundreds, perhaps thousands of other people whose prayers she was the answer to. “What motivates you?” I asked.

Shelly was happy to share her perspective. “We have lost our way,” she said. “People today are all ‘me, me, me, me.’ We need to bring back God, family, morals, and humanity. My husband and I are just simple people. I have never cut a check for myself from the restaurant. I bring in enough to pay the bills and my staff. I don’t own a car or a checkbook. We have been so blessed. We just spread it around.”

I left Myshelly’s Kitchen with two challenges. The first was to ask God to open my eyes to the needs of the people in my little town in Upstate New York. The other was to ask God to use me, like He uses Shelly, to answer other people’s prayers.

Imagine the possibilities of what God can do through you as well!

If you are passing through Arcadia Florida, please stop by Myshelly’s Kitchen, located at 15 West Oak Street. You won’t be disappointed.

If you would like to help Shelly’s work, please consider donating to one of these organizations:

Faith Missions 

C/O Steve and Vicky Price

2462 SW Phigpen Ave

Arcadia, FL 34266

Or Arc Desoto, a local organization that serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Shelly said they are currently in danger of losing their building. Email: or click on the link below.

Related Links: