Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Good Stuff in TEC: New Jersey

Soup kitchen serves far more than soup

When two retirees founded a soup kitchen in 2003 in Freehold, they didn't know thousands of hungry residents would one day depend on the kitchen for a hot meal. But that's what happened at the Open Door Lunch Program.

Now, as the program enters its seventh year, the need for food keeps growing, says co-founder Jim Benedict of Freehold Township. On a recent bitter-cold day, that need is evident.

An hour before doors open at 11:30 a.m. for the 1 1/2-hour meal, 12 men wait outside St. Peter's Episcopal Church parish center, the soup kitchen's home, on Throckmorton Street. Quiet, moving to and fro in place to keep warm in an icy wind, they are joined by more men.

On this day, 150 to 200 people will be fed, says Benedict, 64. In 2008, 33,926 meals were served, he says.

"By 11:15, 90 people will be in here," says co-founder Stan Rosenthal of Holmdel. "As they leave, we allow another group in."

The program runs four weekdays in winter and three in summer. Most participants are men, with 15 or so women and occasionally some children showing up, Benedict says. About 80 percent are people whose primary language is Spanish, says Rosenthal, 65. A number of area seniors show up, too, he says.

"These people would starve without this program. We aren't all so lucky to have everything that we need," Benedict says.

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