By Andrew Schmertz
Live music and hot food helped hundreds of Newark’s hungry residents experience a small measure of Christmas cheer.
So what’s on the menu? “Today is chicken, lemon chicken, penne, salad,” answered Babara Mran, Director of the St. John’s Soup Kitchen.
Every year, the St John’s Church Soup Kitchen pulls out all the stops, complete with a live band, to feed more than 800 men, women, and children. While the soup kitchen is open five days a week, more come on the holidays, in part, because school is closed.
“Christmas Eve day, which is our biggest day of the year, holiday express sponsors this wonderful party, we expect to feed between 800 and 1,000. It’s all catered by the holiday express band and they bring about 100 volunteers with them,” said Mran.
The staff at the soup kitchen is seeing a wider range of people come through its doors these days. Once, it was mostly the homeless or those with additional problems; but today, they are seeing more people who have jobs, but are considered underemployed. They simply don’t make enough to feed a family.
Today, those who had a chance to get a hot meal were grateful for the Christmas spirit the volunteers here show.
“I love it that these people care about us to do this for us. And every year, it’s different and I love it,” said Newark resident Robin King.
Another Newark resident Christine Murray said “it’s very important for our family to be together and it means a lot to us.”
And those who work at church say this is what the holiday is about.
“It’s tough to see people that this is the only meal of the day and sometimes all you can give them is a cup of coffee, but you flip it around and that you are giving them a meal and that they are grateful makes you feel good,” said Brian Elberg of St. John’s
The Director of the soup kitchen says the hunger problem in Newark is getting worse. In part, that’s because smaller communities don’t have the resources that this city does. And for the soup kitchen and its staff, those challenges only increase in 2013.