By Mike Bush
East St. Louis, IL (KSDK)- In an age when every new restaurant is serving tapas or sushi, diners in Collinsville, Illinois always seem to find time for the time-honored.
"It is a good, old fashioned steak house, " says Stacy Cutler, the General Manager of the Doubletree hotel.
Porter's steakhouse in the Doubletree has been around for more than 20 years. Their recipe for success has been their pepperloin, their potatoes and their people.
Henrietta Clanton is as much a part of Porters as their famous mustard sauce.
"If you ask any team member about Henrietta, she is always smiling, " says Cutler.
They say she washes the dishes with the same enthusiasm that she bakes her key lime pies.
"And when I come through the doors here, ' she explained, "I just leave all my problems outside."
Working at a restaurant can't make you rich in anything other than good intentions and if Henrietta has any money left over from her weekly paycheck she spends it on others.
Welcome to Henrietta's other kitchen. The one at the 15th street Baptist Church in East St. Louis.
"She's an excellent cook, " says Pastor Andrew Prowell of the 15th street Baptist Church. "She's the best cook on this side of the Mississippi."
Every Sunday morning using groceries she often pays for with her own money, she spends hours blending and baking, stirring and scooping. She prepares a meal for people, some of whom aren't always sure where their next meal is coming from.
"We are in a pretty bad area at 15th and Lynch, " says Pastor Prowell. "Some of them might be on drugs or just on the streets."
When it's a little warmer, she will set up a table on the street inviting anyone in need. Having been one of 13 children and having raised 7 of her own she says she knows what it's like to be hungry.
"She can't tell anybody no. It's not in her power to say the words no, " says her daughter Gloria Lott.
With help from volunteers, including members of her own family, she serves up both big taste and a little dignity.
"It just make me feel good that they got a hot meal, " says Clanton. "So it's just give me pleasure to do it."
Back at Porter's, Henrietta was recently honored with the Doubltree Hotel's prestigious "Light and Warmth award". Of the 79,000 employees worldwide, she was singled out and it was almost more than she could handle.
"I wake up in the morning time thanking the Lord and there are just tears everywhere, " she explained with a quivering voice. "It's just a blessing you know that somebody thinks that much of me."
In a city with a reputation for empty dreams, the angel of East St. Louis is filling both stomachs and hearts. The way Henrietta sees it, you're never poor when you're giving.
"And I just love doing it, " she says.