SUMMIT, NJ - Since the day Hurricane Irene struck our region, Calvary Episcopal Church at the corner of Woodland and DeForest Avenues in Summit, has been feeding three meals a day to anyone who comes to eat. Wealthy Summit residents often sit at large tables beside homeless people and those on public assistance, finding they have much in common. What brings them together is that they are all cold and hungry.
People from as far away as Newark, Elizabeth and Basking Ridge show up for meals. All are greeted warmly by the church staff and volunteers, who treat the diners as honored guests. Some of the older and less healthy people wait in the church sitting room between meals, reading, sleeping and sometimes just sitting in comfortable chairs with their coats on their laps to keep them warm. Others remain at the tables in the dining room to charge their cell phones or check their email on the church's wireless network.
The church has fed as many as 400 people for dinner. Pastor Matthew Corkern stands at the serving line to greet people and hand out food. When asked why he opened his church to strangers this way he modestly said, "It is something that needs to be done. It is part of our ministry to help those who are in need."
In the spirit of ecumenism, one of the first large contributions the church received was from the Jewish Community Center in Summit. Towne Deli, on Division Avenue, across from the New Providence train station, closed its doors, delivered the contents of its refrigerator to the church, and the deli's head cook is cooking meals alongside volunteers from the church.
Calvary Church hosts Summit Helping Its People, which feeds breakfast to the homeless daily. So there is a core crew led by two guys known only as Rich and Ralph that knows how to cook for large groups. That core crew has been augmented by volunteers from surrounding communities.
Food is paid for through monetary donations to the church, food donations by local restaurants and grocery stores, food donations by other churches and synagogues in the region and local grocery stores. Sometimes, the menu changes three or four times during a meal when the food from one donation runs out and another is served. There is always hot soup and something good to eat.
The community spirit that has been built by the generosity of this church will have a long-lasting impact on those who have participated in its efforts to help people in need. It is a reaffirmation of the old slogan that it is an ill wind that blows no good.