Peter Lombard goes to Digby’s new soup kitchen as much for the fellowship and camaraderie as for the soup.
“I come from a family of 12—seven brothers and five sisters,” he says. “I’m used to socializing. I like to meet the other people.”
Digby’s Catholic church started in February holding soup kitchens on the last two Fridays of the month. They fed about 25 people both days.
“It was tasty,” says Lombard. “Very nice. And the coffee is incredible. I had three cups each time. I think it’s better than Tim’s.”
Lombard is on a fixed income and says he can and does cook for himself, but sometimes, especially towards the end of the month, he doesn’t always have the money for a real homemade meal.
“I might just make something quick and cheap like Kraft dinner or whatever I have,” he says. “Especially later in the month, when you’re really just scratching by.”
Lombard thinks the soup kitchen is especially good for people who are lonely.
“Sometimes just talking with people who are having a tough time, it can really help them,” he says. “I’m by myself at different times and it cheers me up to talk with people. I like cheering up the others and I’m doing something for myself by helping others.”
Father Henry Smolenaars says providing community is as important to the church as feeding people.
“I don’t think we knew how much good it was going to do us as well,” he says. “I was in the kitchen and looked out. The church members were sitting and chatting with the people, everyone was laughing and having a good time. It was a real nice atmosphere.”
Fr. Smolenaars says the parishioners are intent on respecting the privacy of everyone involved. They try to welcome everyone at the door and invite them in. But take out is also available if people don’t want to hang around.
“We have a no-turn-away policy,” says Fr. Smolenaars. “We don’t know or ask about anyone’s situation. We give food equally to anyone who needs it.”
Fr. Smolenaars started at the Digby church in August and says he noticed a real need.
“People were coming and asking for food and money to buy food,” he says. “I mentioned the idea of a soup kitchen to one person and the whole thing just kind of took off. The support has been overwhelming.”
Right now he has four teams of eight lined up to do the cooking serving and cleaning up each month. And other half dozen people ready to step in and help out.
Local stores and suppliers have also been very generous he says.
“The hardest part has been predicting how much food to make,” he says.
The parishioners are trying to keep the recipes simple but nutritious. Smolenaars says by keeping the meals to one pot dishes like soups, chowders, chilis and stews, it keeps the work manageable.
The next soup kitchen is scheduled for Friday, March 22 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The meals are served in the church basement; the door on First Avenue is marked with a sign for the new St. Pat’s soup kitchen.