By Berit A. Ollestad
Nobody could have predicted that when the Community Soup Kitchen in Morristown opened its doors more than 27 years ago, those doors would never close. Literally.
This week the soup kitchen hit an impressive milestone: 10,000 straight days of service. Even if hell freezes over, CSK guests can count on a hot meal. Snowstorms, tropical storms, power outages–nothing has kept this operation from serving healthy meals to its patrons day after day, year after year, without fail.
“We know that regardless of what is going on with weather, the community, or the economy, people will be at the door daily, hungry and wanting to be fed. Therefore we have had volunteers even sleep at the church if a snowstorm is predicted in order to open the doors the next day for the folks,” said Terry Connolly, executive director of the soup kitchen.
The soup kitchen has not turned away anyone in nearly three decades. Of course, if you arrive late, you might get canned ravioli instead of baked chicken. Although some guests don’t think that’s too bad, according to Connolly.
She expects an upsurge of families and children coming to the soup kitchen when school lets out for summer. Low-income families struggle to provide three meals a day when they cannot depend on school lunch programs. Daily attendance was holding steady at 280 or so guests during the colder months; typically it decreases to around 150 meals per day in summer, when more outdoor work is available, Connolly said.
Volunteers are the unsung heroes at the soup kitchen.
“There is no question that the Community Soup Kitchen couldn’t have done it all these years without the tireless efforts of all the people that continue to volunteer day after day and year after year” Connolly acknowledged.
Mayor Tim Dougherty is one of the soup kitchen’s biggest fans.
“When so many people are living paycheck to paycheck and they fall on hard times, it’s reassuring to know that we have organizations such as the CSK that our residents can rely on in their times of need,” the Mayor said.
“I spent some time speaking with the many wonderful volunteers and staff members that make the soup kitchen was it is. But what gave me the most satisfaction was going outside and talking with a number of individuals that I have gotten to know personally that come here daily, and having them tell me how very grateful they are to have somewhere they can go and get a meal.
“Sometimes they may not know where they are going to sleep that night, but they are assured that they won’t go hungry if they live in Morristown. Not only is it our responsibility as a town but it is our duty as the county seat to make sure everyone in our area is fed and taken care of,” said Dougherty.
What is it like to be homeless in Morristown?
Jim, a longtime patron of the CSK, summed it up with a beleaguered smile.
“Word on the street is that if you are homeless, living in Morristown AND you’re hungry, there’s really something wrong,” he said.