Dressed in a button- down shirt, Kevin Mack of Willimantic escaped the snowy spring day to grab lunch in his hometown.
Mack, however, was not eating at a restaurant.
Like many others affected by the recession, Mack, a former hardware store owner, recently found himself unemployed and struggling to find work.
He was one of many diners having lunch at the Covenant Soup Kitchen at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on 220 Valley St. Monday, a meal that drew people from all walks of life.
Times are tough for Mack and they’re equally tough for the soup kitchen, with empty food shelves and high demand showing that, even as pundits talk of recovery, the local community still has to get back on its feet.
Covenant Soup Kitchen Director Paul Doyle said the organization draws an average of 60 people during breakfast, served from 9:15 to 11 a.m., and 100 people for lunch, served from 12:15 to 1 p.m.
Doyle said the shelter is in need of donations, as it did not get as much funding as it needed during its annual fundraising drive. It needs help.
Incoming revenue is not catching up with the soup kitchen’s $380,000 budget, with an estimated $38,000 in donations needed.
Not only does the soup kitchen provide much-needed meals, it supervises a food pantry and programs aimed at helping the less fortunate adjust back into society, such as job-search skills and personal budgeting, among other services.
In addition, the facility is in need of food items for the kitchen and pantry, as well as hygienic items.
The following food items are especially needed for the pantry: canned fruit, canned stew, canned ravioli, dried pasta and soup.
The pantry is open every afternoon from 2 to 4 p.m.
Items needed for the kitchen include black pepper, chicken, beef and vegetable broth, coffee, cooking spray and ketchup.
“We are in a little bit of a crisis,” Doyle said.
Mack said he comes to the shelter for meals a few times a week and is looking to run another business similar to the one he had. “I’ve always been self-employed,” Mack said.
Mack has two children who are 8 and 10 years old.
Ken Saber, who is staying at the Windham No Freeze Hospitality Center on Main Street, was another individual who stepped out of the cold for a warm meal.
Saber, a former maintenance custodian at Wal-Mart, has been living at the Main Street shelter for about four months and has been unemployed for three years. He is looking for cashier and janitor jobs in the Willimantic area.
Many local volunteers assist at the soup kitchen on a regular basis.
During a visit Monday, a fifth-grade Girl Scout troop from Ashford had school off and decided to help those in need by serving at the kitchen.
Lori Swift of Ashford, the girl’s troop leader, said the troop comes to the shelter to help out every year and seven of the nine girls in the troop came to help Monday.
“They love it,” Swift said. “They do it every year.”
Swift said the girls will also be preparing Easter baskets for the needy this year, the first time they are doing so.
This activity will be done in conjunction with churches in Mansfield.
One individual who was touched by the generosity of volunteers at the kitchen was Mack.
“When things were going great for me, I always volunteered,” Mack said.
The kitchen is currently looking for drivers to pick up and deliver donations, individuals to stock food items in the pantry, maintenance workers and gardeners.
Those interested in making a donation or volunteering can contact the kitchen at (860) 423-1643 or stop in for a visit. More information about the programs is available on its web site, www.covenantsoupkitchen.org.
Posted March 26, 2011
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