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From coal miner to cook: Randy Bynum is spending his retirement in service to others

  • Randy Bynum plates some chocolate chip cookies at Heaven's Kitchen Marion last week.

    Randy Bynum plates some chocolate chip cookies at Heaven's Kitchen Marion last week.
    Holly Kee photo

updated: 12/12/2019 11:57 PM

MARION -- After spending 38 years working in the coalmines of southern Illinois, Stonefort native Randy Bynum easily earned his right to the carefree life of retirement.

However, Bynum, who is celebrating his 62nd birthday this week, decided on another plan.

"I just thought it would be nice to give back a little bit," said the burly, bearded Carrier Mills resident. "I decided to volunteer. It just took off and I've been doing it ever since."

That was over a year ago and Bynum's service puts a hot meal in the bellies of several hundred area residents each week.

Bynum is the "head chef" for the Heaven's Kitchen programs in both Harrisburg and Marion.

He said he spends about three hours on service days preparing the meal. "It depends on what we're going to have."

He also collaborates on the menu, in Marion, working with Agustin Duran, to decide what to serve.

"We try to break it up so we're not having the same things time after time," he said, as another volunteer popped into the kitchen. "Hey Randy," he said, "we have requests for meatloaf."

Bynum said between the two days each week, he's cooking up around 400 meals and he has no plans to stop.

"I'll just be doing this from now on," he said with a grin, "until the good Lord takes me home."

Dinner will be served tomorrow at Heaven's Kitchen Marion at 5 p.m. at the Ministerial Alliance, 103 E. Calvert St. Everyone is welcome. Anyone that would like to volunteer, donate, or sponsor a meal can send an email to or reach out on the Facebook page "Heaven's Kitchen -- Marion."