A broad cross-section of people comes through the doors of the St. Vincent de Paul Community Kitchen and Resource Center—clients who are hungry and homeless, volunteers, others doing community service and crucial donors of food and finances. These are a few:
Dwight, 62, originally from Buffalo, is truly homeless and jobless. He says he made some mistakes in life, which led to a restraining order and being put out of the house by his wife a decade ago. He had done factory work, but new owners of the company had let him go.
With no job, no money and no housing, Dwight nevertheless comes in neat and well-groomed for a good, warm meal every day. He receives his mail here and gets a regular health check up every six months. For housing, he sleeps on cardboard behind a Clearwater building. He is planning to apply for Social Security retirement benefits to provide a small income. “Otherwise, I’m in great shape,” Dwight said.
Joe, 70, of nearby Belleair, has been volunteering his time at the food-serving counter for about five years. It has been a family tradition. His aunt volunteered here and then his wife, before Joe joined the Monday morning volunteer team. He can be found bringing out serving trays of meat, vegetables and salad, as well as a fresh pot of soup, which are all part of the regular daily meals.
On this particular Monday, Joe is assisting a group of student volunteer servers, clad in school uniforms of blue shirts and shorts from St. Cecelia Interparochial Catholic School, who are spooning out a hearty meal onto client’s food trays. Joe is a retired operations manager for a rubber company.
Brooke, 21, of Clearwater, was ordered to do community service after making one big mistake, driving while intoxicated. “I picked the wrong time to get in the driver’s seat. I should have let someone else drive,” she said. She has attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, took a Driving Under the Influence course and is doing 50 hours of community service as part of her probation, along with working her full-time job.
She picked St. Vincent de Paul for her community service, saying, “I think they’re doing a great thing here, helping other people. I feel like I’m doing something for the community.” While spraying client’s food trays before putting them in the washing machine, she added, “I hope kids learn, don’t drink and drive.”
Glen Morton, 64, of Clearwater, a former alcoholic and drug abuser, is now one of two paid staff people who live in a building behind the kitchen. Among other duties, Glen arrives in the St. Vincent de Paul van filled with food donated by local organizations. Notably, Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies, which have been conducting Spring Training in Clearwater since 1947, are generous donors to the community kitchen. Other individuals and companies provide food or financial donations on a regular basis.
Community Kitchen and Resource Center begin in Pinellas Country in 1982. The SVdP Soup Kitchen has been at the Park St., Clearwater location since 2011. Focused on client self-sufficiency, serving breakfast to the poor and hungry.