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Schuylkill County News

Soup Kitchen Volunteers from Hydro Wonder What Patrons Will Do for Meals

Volunteers say they’ve made personal connections over the years.

Twice a month – sometimes more, when needed – a group of about 15 volunteers who are all co-workers at Hydro in Cressona help out at the Pottsville Area Soup Kitchen.

On any given night, about six or seven show up and there’s a rotating roster of workers from Hydro who donate their time to help the patrons who’ve come to rely on the soup kitchen for a meal four days a week.

The company actually allows them to leave work a couple hours early so they can make their way to Pottsville to begin prepping for a meal service that evening.

When they heard that Catholic Diocese is stopping food service at the Pottsville Area Soup Kitchen sometime this summer in favor of a roving food truck that will service all of Schuylkill County instead, they expressed serious concern.

At least four of those volunteers penned letters that were sent to Catholic Charities and they shared them with The Canary. (You can read the letters below this article.)

Each of the letters expresses their individual concerns with the decision to essentially close the soup kitchen. They wonder, like many have, what if any thought was put into what those who come to the soup kitchen every day it’s open will do for meals in the future.

And they hope, even if it seems hopeless, that minds are changed.

“I appeal to you to reconsider the plan of closing this very needed soup kitchen for our community,” Charisse Caravan, who works at Hydro, writes in her letter.

According to the preliminary plans, the Catholic Charities food truck will not visit Pottsville every day that the soup kitchen is currently open. Instead, it’ll hit one location in Schuylkill County per day, eventually from Tuesday through Thursday.

“The thought of having the soup kitchen close, especially in the current climate where people are struggling to make ends meeting just does not make sense to me,” Dave Resnick writes in his letter.

Resnick has been volunteering at the soup kitchen with his family for the past 25 years and is one of the people who began organizing teams of co-workers at Hydro to help.

Cheryl Burdess, who also is key to organizing the workers at Hydro to help at the soup kitchen writes, “It would be a darn shame to have to tell these people whom we have worked so hard to help, that their ability to get a hot meal, warm up when it’s cold, and cool off when it’s hot is now coming to an end. I know that they can still get one meal a week from the Salvation Army, and one from the food truck, but could you live on two meals a week?”

In addition to serving meals at the soup kitchen, Burdess also organizes drives among co-workers at Hydro. She’s done collections of blankets, coats, hats, gloves, toiletries, and more to hand out when they’re also giving out meals.

Moments a Food Truck Can’t Handle

Meal service at the Pottsville Area Soup Kitchen is expected to end sometime this summer. (Coal Region Canary photos)

On Wednesday, Resnick, Burdess, and others from Hydro were at the soup kitchen once again to hand out meals to those who came through the door at the soup kitchen.

It was hot outside so they decided to open up early so those waiting outside had a chance to cool off before they got their meals.

On this night, some of those extra items collected in drives were given out to patrons who showed up for a meal. There were even special bags for children who come to the food kitchen with their family.

But on this night, it wasn’t just a bag of essentials that one child needed.

A 3-year-old boy came into the soup kitchen on Wednesday who wasn’t wearing shoes. The volunteers from Hydro saw this and ran out quickly and bought him some socks, a pair of sandals, and a few toy cars.

“These are the types of moments we will miss and won’t happen with a food truck,” Resnick says.

Concerns for the Future of Soup Kitchen Patrons

The main concern among the Hydro employees who volunteer at the soup kitchen is what the patrons will do when the door closes on the building for good later this summer.

“These people rely on this. They look forward to it,” Resnick says. “It’s not just a meal for most people.”

And the more this group of volunteers helps at the soup kitchen, the more connections they make.

Carol Renninger, who was handing out the meals on Wednesday, says she sees patrons from time to time when she’s going about her day and they recognize her. She says they’re all so thankful for the work her and her team put in at the soup kitchen.

“We have so many good relationships with some of the people. We look forward to them,” Resnick adds.

One person in particular stands out. She comes in one minute prior to the end of meal service but the team from Hydro is ready for her and has her meal ready.

“I have her food all packed up and ready to go,” Burdess says.

The holidays may be the times they’ll miss the most. Thinking about how the families that come to the soup kitchen for their holiday meal may not have that this year, “It breaks your heart,” Burdess adds.

If Catholic Charities goes forward with its plan and service at the Pottsville Area Soup Kitchen stops this summer, Resnick and the others worry what will happen to the patrons.

“We’ve seen so much, how it’s affected so many people,” he says. “It’s going to hurt a lot of people. People are not going to be fed. Kids are not going to get meals.

Burdess thinks the idea of the food truck is “wonderful” but questions the motive behind stopping meal services at the soup kitchen at the same time.

“Why would you penalize the ones who’ve been coming here and rely on this place,” she says.



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