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Pottsville News

Schuylkill Commissioners Appeal to Allentown Diocese Over Potential Loss of Pottsville Soup Kitchen

Each Commissioner has donated food from their businesses to the soup kitchen through the years.

Schuylkill County Commissioners learned last week of the potential loss of the St. Patrick’s Pottsville Area Soup Kitchen.

As The Canary reported on Sunday, Catholic Charities is planning to stop food service at the soup kitchen at 504 Mahantongo St. in Pottsville sometime this summer. No specific date has been given.

In place of this, Catholic Charities has purchased a food truck which it intends to use to distribute meals to the needy across all of Schuylkill County.

However, this will undoubtedly create a situation where the people who have come to depend on the meals served at the Pottsville soup kitchen four nights a week won’t get those meals as regularly.

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It did not take long for the County Commissioners to recognize this. Over the years, each of them has donated a lot of food to the soup kitchen as each of them owns a food business.

On Friday, they signed a letter intended for Catholic Charities – Diocese of Allentown expressing their concern over the decision to stop meal service as it is today at the Pottsville Area Soup Kitchen.

In comments to The Canary on Sunday evening, each added to their letter.

“I think the soup kitchen is of vital importance for Pottsville and surrounding communities that have relied on the services of the soup kitchen,” Chairman Larry Padora said.

Over the years, Padora donated bread from his Tamaqua bakery to the soup kitchen in Pottsville.

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“It’s a shame if that service stops,” he said.

Commissioner Gary Hess has also donated food from his catering business to the soup kitchen. He said, “It would be a loss,” if the soup kitchen weren’t serving meals from the Mahantongo St. building anymore.

“I’m hoping the DIocese will see that,” he added. “It will create a void.”

Hess also talked about how the soup kitchen is much more than a place for the needy to get a meal. It’s also a place where people in a similar circumstance can come together and have conversations.

He believes a place like the soup kitchen is as important for their mental health as it is their physical.

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“It’s a place to have a conversation. When they talk things out, it can help,” Hess said. “It’s a lifeline. It’s helping people.”

Commissioner Boots Hetherington spoke on the same points as Hess about how the soup kitchen is more than just a place to get a meal. Over the years, he, too, has donated food from his farm, including tomatoes and sweet corn in the summertime.

“It’s therapy and fellowship,” he said.

He was also more critical of the Diocese’s decision to stop meal service from the building itself in favor of using its new food truck.

“I’m disappointed they’re doing this,” Hetherington said. “I don’t get their reasoning.”

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Each of the Commissioners did appreciate the Diocese’s intent to serve the needs of more Schuylkill County residents with its new food truck but don’t support the idea of stopping what’s been happening at the Pottsville soup kitchen for the last 40 years.

Here is the text of the letter Commissioners sent to Catholic Charities – Diocese of Allentown on Friday:

We would like to extend our support of the local St. Patrick Pottsville Area Soup Kitchen, more commonly referred to as the local “soup kitchen”. This soup kitchen provides a very important service in Pottsville and to the surrounding communities. Ms. Terry Alexander, along with many loyal volunteers, coordinates the operation of the soup kitchen, which offers a meal every day of the week, except Fridays.

It has come to our attention that Catholic Charities has purchased a food truck to offer meals in the Schuylkill County area. While the food truck may be a good addition to the soup kitchen, it could not replace the opportunity for folks to rest and gather in a safe place on a regular basis and at a set time to enjoy a warm, home-cooked meal. In addition to nourishing their bodies, the soup kitchen is also a meeting place where people can get support and hear of other services available to them.

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It would be a loss felt by the local community if the physical building, which houses the soup kitchen, was not available for people to congregate, to warm up, to cool down, to hold AA meetings, or conducted canned goods, blankets, and clothing drives.

We sincerely appreciate your time and consideration of our comments in support of the St. Patrick Pottsville Area Kitchen.

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