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.
About 150 people a day come through our doors 365 days a year, men and women of all races, all ages and even parents with young children. They come from many walks of life, some working their way back from personal setbacks, some struggling with disabilities and addictions and newcomers signing up for the first time.
Some are on disability or retirement benefits and trying to manager their limited finances. Many are veterans, wearing caps or shirts indicating their past service in the armed forces. A few come leaning on aluminum walkers for assistance and even occasionally in a wheelchair.
Often middle-aged or older, many of our clients are working at improving their lives. Some take classes at nearby St. Petersburg College’s Clearwater campus and at other schools. Several work intermittently at construction jobs, some do house painting and others do janitorial or maintenance work.
Volunteers have spruced up our chapel and made it a more inviting place for quiet time, spiritual reflection and prayer. Clients are invited to come to the chapel daily beginning at 7:30 a.m. Supporters also can buy a brick on the chapel wall, have it inscribed in memory of a loved one and underwrite the cost of about 100 meals with a tax-deductible donation of $100. Please let us know if you can help by buying a brick.
The summer seems to have passed very quickly. At least this year we had no construction or leaks. We also had good reliable air conditioning. Yes, we still have a lot of hot days left, but soon we will be enjoying the cooler days of fall. We thank all of you volunteers who stuck with us through the hot days of Florida. Our clients have needed all of us.
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.