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Churches: Kitchens work together to provide weekday meals
By Jackie R. Broach
Whether in need of a hot meal or starved for companionship, the hungry can have their needs met every day of the week at area churches.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, Pawleys Island Presbyterian Church’s Bread of Life Soup Kitchen has food and fellowship from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Father Pat’s Lunch Kitchen serves lunch at Precious Blood of Christ Catholic Church on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Wrapping up the work week, Island Grace Café at All Saints serves meals from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday. Then it’s back to Father Pat’s on Saturday for breakfast from 9-11 a.m. and for lunch on the second Sunday of every month from noon to 1 p.m.
“There is a lot of opportunity here,” said Ellen Sullivan, parish coordinator for Precious Blood. “We’ve all coordinated with each other and tried not to crisscross each other so that every day you can have a meal at one of our sites.”
Precious Blood regularly feeds more than 100 people on the days it serves lunch and 60 to 70 for breakfast on Saturdays. It’s a big jump from five years ago when the church’s pastor, Father Pat Stenson, started the kitchen. It opened its doors to feed the hungry one day a week then, attracting 15 to 20 for those early meals.
“Father Pat is a firm believer that if you continue and are consistent, then they will come,” Sullivan said. “He had us stay with it and now on any given Wednesday or Thursday we can have 130 people. People rely on it.”
And not only is the food nourishing, it tastes good, she added.
Bread of Life Soup Kitchen came next, getting its start about two years ago. The kitchen started feeding about 25 people, but that number has since tripled.
“We had no money, no food and no volunteers, but we thought it was something that would be worthy of doing here,” said Harry Fritz. He chairs the committee over the kitchen, but is better known as the dessert man because he wheels around the dessert cart during meals at the kitchen.
There’s no lining up for food at the kitchen. Visitors have a seat and a volunteer brings them water or tea and then brings out plates for them.
“We want them to feel like our guests,” Fritz said.
There’s a similar set up at Father Pat’s.
“It’s a nice way for us to treat them and make them feel special,” Sullivan said.
Island Grace Café is the newest ministry to serve food, having started just six months ago. The church saw there was a gap on Fridays and decided to fill it.
“The concept was simply to reach out to the local community and let them know that people who professed to be Christian people really do care and are willing to provide both time and money to help them,” said Ralph Spadaccini, ministry coordinator.
Island Grace serves between 85 and 100 meals a week.
“We don’t push anything or ask anything. We simply visit with them and talk with them and see how they’re doing,” Spadaccini said.
At all three kitchens, it’s a diverse crowd who make up the guests. They’re young and old and there’s no predominant ethnicity.
“In today’s economic times, you would be surprised at the people that come in,” Spadaccini said. “One thing we’re seeing that we didn’t anticipate is a lot of younger families that seem to be in need. We thought it would be mostly older people, but that’s not the case. We’re finding an awful lot of people with small children.”
At Father Pat’s, Sullivan said she sees some guests coming in from work on their lunch breaks as well as families and the elderly. “There are groups that don’t come in together but they meet together here,” she said. “It’s nice to see the relationships that have probably developed from the kitchen.”
At Bread of Life, the biggest surprise according to Fritz was the number of elderly people who come in as much to have some company as for the food. For some, any opportunity to get out of the house and socialize is a blessing.
“There’s a tremendous need for them to get out of their homes and facilities,” Fritz said.
“These kitchens are really important to the community in a lot of ways,” Spadaccini said.