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Feeding the hungry at their door

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

By Eileen Connelly, OSU

ARCHDIOCESE — On a recent Monday afternoon just before 4:30, a line had already started to form outside the St. Francis Seraph Soup Kitchen in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine.

Established in 1980, the soup kitchen, part of St. Francis Seraph Ministries, typically serves more than 200 dinners hot, tasty dinners each Monday, Wednesday and Friday year round. Due to a decline in donations and staffing issues, however, the decision was made in June to close the soup kitchen on Friday afternoons, said Franciscan Brother Tim Sucher, administrator of St. Francis Seraph Ministries for the past four years.

Georgina Dye serves as the cook at St. Francis Seraph Soup Kitchen. (CT/Eileen Connelly, OSU)

While the decision was difficult, Brother Tim said, “We felt we could eliminate a day, and the people in Over-the-Rhine wouldn’t go hungry because there are other resources.”

The closure was only temporary, thanks to the generosity of parishioners at Good Shepherd Parish in Montgomery. According to Mark Westendorf, coordinator of outreach ministries, when the parish heard the soup kitchen was closing on Fridays, $15,000 from Good Shepherd’s Psalm 23 Fund, used to assist those need and spread the Gospel, was approved to help it reopen. Parishioners donated another $7,000 after Father Robert Schmitz, pastor, announced the soup kitchen’s predicament at Mass one weekend.

Westendorf said the response of the faith community at Good Shepherd is typical. “In tough times Good Shepherd parishioners have always come through. We have good people supporting many different causes.”

“Good Shepherd Parish has always had a strong relationship with the ministries of St. Francis Seraph and we appreciate their great work. We are grateful to God that we have the opportunity to of service to St. Francis.”

Over-the-Rhine residents and others are served a tasty meal by volunteers. (CT/Eileen Connelly, OSU)

“The parish has been a great blessing to us,” Brother Tim said. “They came through big time and helped us out tremendously.”

The soup kitchen reopened its doors on Fridays beginning July 10, continuing its commitment to feed the hungry. “Our goal is to provide a healthy meal in a safe and welcoming environment,” Brother Tim said. “Most folks are from the neighborhood. We get a lot of families and single moms with kids, and people from all age groups.”

The soup kitchen is funded entirely by private donations, he added, with menu items provided by local food distributors, restaurants, grocery stores and individuals. A dedicated volunteer force provides the labor to keep the soup kitchen running, Brother Tim said.

As a next step to assist the soup kitchen, Westendorf said Good Shepherd Parish is planning an ongoing non-perishable and personal care item collection to begin in the near future, along with continuing to accept monetary donations to help ensure its doors stay open for years to come.

Eileen Connelly, OSU, can be reached at [email protected].

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