Downtown Soup Kitchen

Downtown Soup Kitchen

Last winter, my food-writer friend Jennifer McGovern invited me to take a tour of the Downtown Soup Kitchen in Anchorage, Alaska. The new building was still in progress at the time; it was just weeks before its grand opening. As I walked through the premises, I imagined what it might be like filled with volunteers, clients, and hot meals. Photo courtesy of the Downtown Soup Kitchen This fall, inspired by the Advil® Relief in Action Initiative – an awesome program all about celebrating the efforts of volunteers who don’t let pain stop them from helping others – I had the special privilege of returning to the new and fully-operational Downtown Soup Kitchen and serving alongside my friend Jennifer, who volunteers there weekly and writes for the blog on the Downtown Soup Kitchen website. In October 2013, the Downtown Soup Kitchen served over 8,000 meals and had 125 regular volunteers. In addition to serving hot lunches, they also have a laundry and shower facility, an indoor coffee lounge where clients can keep warm, and an area where they collect clothing and shoe donations and other necessities for those who need them. Jennifer first started volunteering at the Soup Kitchen several years ago, when her kids were younger. She was in the neighborhood of the old facility during lunchtime and saw a large crowd of folks being served hot meals in cold weather. Jennifer felt compelled to go inside and inquire about becoming a volunteer. The first time she volunteered, she signed up with her husband and three children to go and serve together as a family at Christmastime. She recalled that it was a frigid -17 degrees that particular day in Anchorage as clients began arriving to enjoy their hot meals. The experience of serving alongside her husband and young children at the Downtown Soup Kitchen had a profound and lasting impact on Jennifer and her family. She still serves there regularly, and her kids and husband join her whenever their school and work schedules allow. In fact, Jennifer’s husband, Ted, is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Alaska Army National Guard where he serves as a Chaplain. This past fall, Lt. Col. McGovern was placed on furlough as a result of the 2013 Government Shutdown. During his sudden and unexpected time off of work, he went to the Downtown Soup Kitchen and served meals with Jennifer. Ted and Jennifer indicated that serving others in the midst of the Shutdown really put things into perspective for them. Their commitment to serving others, and their heart for offering hope in the midst of hard times, is an inspiration to me. The truth is that every volunteer has a story and their own unique set of circumstances. The Downtown Soup Kitchen was bursting with the energy and smiles of their amazing volunteers. I was incredibly impressed by the contagious attitudes and deep sense of hospitality demonstrated by all the staff and volunteers as they worked tirelessly to provide hot, nutritious meals- many of them made from scratch with fresh ingredients. They worked with tremendous grace and purpose. I am partnering with Advil® because they are doing some incredible work highlighting and supporting active volunteerism across our nation. The Advil® Relief in Action campaign honors and supports people who don’t let pain get in the way of helping others. From helping rebuild homes and businesses devastated by Superstorm Sandy, to building homes for people in need through Habitat for Humanity® International, or being the ultimate volunteer- a veteran or soldier of our armed forces- Advil® is honoring volunteers who actively give back to help others. Through partnerships with Habitat for Humanity® International and Wounded Warrior Project®, Advil® will recognize volunteers’ hard work and relieve the tough pain that comes along with giving back. I was inspired by 4-year-old volunteer, Claire, who worked hard right alongside all the adults. It was a great privilege to get to highlight some of our local Alaskan volunteers and serve alongside them. I donned my camouflage Downtown Soup Kitchen apron, grabbed a name tag, and was promptly put to work peeling and cutting sweet potatoes and yams, chopping ham, and stirring soup (stirring such a large pot with such a gigantic paddle was reminiscent of rowing a boat in calm water). I even got to serve as a guest taste-tester, sampling the delicious, creamy ham and potato chowder that was on offer that day. As the clients arrived for lunch and the lines formed, everyone went to their respective areas to serve, and I took my place at the soup station next to Jennifer, who was serving hot bread. The dining room filled with the inviting sounds of conversation mixed with the satisfaction that comes along with enjoying a warm, hearty meal. In that moment, although our legs were aching from being on our feet for several hours, my heart was full. Completely full.
downtown soup kitchen 1

Downtown Soup Kitchen

A warm meal on a chilly day and a friendly smile can be just what a stranger needs. That’s what Penn State Hazleton students in the Rehabilitation and Human Services program provided to clients of the Salvation Army soup kitchen as they connected their academic studies to real-world experience and interaction. Five groups of students – 25 in total – headed to downtown Hazleton to serve lunch at the soup kitchen over the past few weeks. The opportunity developed out of a chance meeting when Penn State Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation and Human Services Garrett Huck and Salvation Army Major Doris Gonzalez were seated next to each other on a plane ride and struck up a conversation. Learning more about what the other did, they saw it as an ideal partnership between Huck’s students at Penn State Hazleton and Gonzalez’ clients at the Salvation Army. “This is a chance for the students to connect what they are learning in the classroom to the people they will actually be working with in their careers in the rehabilitation and human services field,” Huck said. “The students really enjoy having this experience and turning what they have learned into practical application.” Senior Sam Koch said, “In our major, we’re serving the community and helping people who need services. Here at the soup kitchen, we are seeing people who are in need of those services and we now know a place they can be referred to.” On a cold, dreary Thursday, a group of four students took their turn serving a meal of hot soup, pizza, peaches and dessert. But more than just providing a meal, they added a human element through their interaction with the clients at the Salvation Army.   Major Doris Gonzalez said, “Most likely, the population that they are going to be working with is the same population they’re serving today. Our clientele is composed of mainly homeless people, some with substance abuse issues. We also have low-income individuals who are very at risk to becoming substance abusers coming in.” On a typical weekday, Gonzalez said, the soup kitchen serves between 60 and 100 people, with donations coming from a local food bank, Salvation Army funds and donations from the public. The kitchen has no paid employees and is run entirely by volunteers. “I’m so excited to have the Penn State Hazleton students here to help,” she said. “Here in our community, it is so needed.” Students who were helping at the soup kitchen agreed it was a valuable experience and worthwhile cause. Senior Danny Brown said, “This is important because it helps you understand others who don’t have much and lets you put yourself in their shoes.” Gabby Freed, a senior who was washing dishes, said, “I think it’s important to give back to the community, especially as a college student. Many of us have our parents to help us and we really need to see what’s actually going on in the community. With this degree we will be helping people who are not going through the best of times. We’re getting field experience and tying everything together here.” Huck praised his students involved in the endeavor, adding, “All of the students have stepped up and brought bright personalities to this experience. Seeing them out of the classroom like this makes me even more optimistic about the future of our field,” Huck said. Gonzalez invited other students looking to volunteer in a variety of capacities – including in the soup kitchen, as bell ringers or with the organization’s new after-school program – to contact her at 570-454-1631 or sahazleton@yahoo.com. More Features Related Content Hazleton professor completes Fulbright in Iceland Chorus of voices speak up for Penn State at Capital Day 2017 in Harrisburg Grant enables College of Education to help English learners in Hazleton Seventeen Penn State campuses named 2017 Military Friendly Schools Events planned to raise awareness of disabilities at Penn State Hazleton Professor creates blog for immigrant voices Current Features Not so far apart Read More Learning center provides academic support to students Read More Business plans Read More
downtown soup kitchen 2

Downtown Soup Kitchen

A warm meal on a chilly day and a friendly smile can be just what a stranger needs. That’s what Penn State Hazleton students in the Rehabilitation and Human Services program provided to clients of the Salvation Army soup kitchen as they connected their academic studies to real-world experience and interaction. Five groups of students – 25 in total – headed to downtown Hazleton to serve lunch at the soup kitchen over the past few weeks. The opportunity developed out of a chance meeting when Penn State Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation and Human Services Garrett Huck and Salvation Army Major Doris Gonzalez were seated next to each other on a plane ride and struck up a conversation. Learning more about what the other did, they saw it as an ideal partnership between Huck’s students at Penn State Hazleton and Gonzalez’ clients at the Salvation Army. “This is a chance for the students to connect what they are learning in the classroom to the people they will actually be working with in their careers in the rehabilitation and human services field,” Huck said. “The students really enjoy having this experience and turning what they have learned into practical application.” Senior Sam Koch said, “In our major, we’re serving the community and helping people who need services. Here at the soup kitchen, we are seeing people who are in need of those services and we now know a place they can be referred to.” On a cold, dreary Thursday, a group of four students took their turn serving a meal of hot soup, pizza, peaches and dessert. But more than just providing a meal, they added a human element through their interaction with the clients at the Salvation Army.   Major Doris Gonzalez said, “Most likely, the population that they are going to be working with is the same population they’re serving today. Our clientele is composed of mainly homeless people, some with substance abuse issues. We also have low-income individuals who are very at risk to becoming substance abusers coming in.” On a typical weekday, Gonzalez said, the soup kitchen serves between 60 and 100 people, with donations coming from a local food bank, Salvation Army funds and donations from the public. The kitchen has no paid employees and is run entirely by volunteers. “I’m so excited to have the Penn State Hazleton students here to help,” she said. “Here in our community, it is so needed.” Students who were helping at the soup kitchen agreed it was a valuable experience and worthwhile cause. Senior Danny Brown said, “This is important because it helps you understand others who don’t have much and lets you put yourself in their shoes.” Gabby Freed, a senior who was washing dishes, said, “I think it’s important to give back to the community, especially as a college student. Many of us have our parents to help us and we really need to see what’s actually going on in the community. With this degree we will be helping people who are not going through the best of times. We’re getting field experience and tying everything together here.” Huck praised his students involved in the endeavor, adding, “All of the students have stepped up and brought bright personalities to this experience. Seeing them out of the classroom like this makes me even more optimistic about the future of our field,” Huck said. Gonzalez invited other students looking to volunteer in a variety of capacities – including in the soup kitchen, as bell ringers or with the organization’s new after-school program – to contact her at 570-454-1631 or sahazleton@yahoo.com.