The recipient of this week's Ben's Bell is Karin Elliott, who feeds the homeless even though she is in need herself.

She was nominated by Jessie Menard, who recently began assisting Elliott. Twice a week since January, Elliott has been giving away food at Santa Rita Park, East 22nd Street and South Third Avenue, to people living on the streets. A few months ago, she began feeding the homeless at Estevan Park on North Main Avenue, too.

"She does this from the kindness of her heart, never asking for anything in return," Menard wrote in her nomination. "She told me that seeing their eyes and smiles when she hands them the food plate is what she cherishes the most."

Elliott, 67, receives food stamps, and her house is on the verge of foreclosure, but she continues to help the homeless, using her own money and small donations from the community.

"She is definitely an angel for the homeless," Menard wrote. "It warms my heart when I see them hug her. One never knows if we will need to stand in her line some day."

Since she started in January, Elliott has served 2,220 dinners. A couple of weeks ago, she fed a record 101 people in one evening, Menard said. And Elliott isn't handing out sandwiches and coffee, either. She spends hours preparing what she calls "stick-to-the-ribs" meals -the kinds of comfort foods their moms might have prepared. Spaghetti, shredded beef tacos, homemade tortilla soup, goulash.

Elliott used to own Rainbow Moods, a spiritual store on Grant Road. After her son, Scott, died 11 years ago, Elliott was so steeped in grief that she could no longer run the business and closed up shop. She generates a small income from the sale of American Indian music CDs and ceremonial items such as sage. She began feeding the homeless after learning one of her friends, a Navajo man, was living on the streets. She searched city parks looking for him and discovered a vast population of street dwellers. A few months ago, her long-lost friend turned up in her food line.

"She's like everyone's mother," Menard said. "She does it out of the kindness of her heart."

Despite her own financial woes, Elliott said feeding the homeless is "a gift from my heart. I don't want to stop it. My dream is to wipe out hunger in the parks."

Added to that mission is Elliott's desire to help keep warm those she feeds. She is now asking for donations of winter coats, clothing, blankets and sleeping bags she can hand out during her dinner service. The items don't have to be new, but they should be clean and in good condition. Anyone interested in donating can call Elliott at 326-2236.

The project

Ben's Bells promote kindness and community. It was started in 2003 by the family of Ben Maré Packard as a way to honor the 2-year-old who died of croup a year earlier. Each week a person who betters Tucson is "belled." Go to www.bens bells.org/Nominate.html to submit a name. Go to www.bensbells.org or call 628-2829 for information.

Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at kmatas@azstarnet.com or at 573-4191.