NUTLEY, NJ - Soup Kitchens is the third article in the three-part series “Hunger Hits Home.” The objective is to raise the awareness of the need in our own hometowns, where to go for assistance and how to help those less fortunate.

Nutley’s hidden gem, a care kitchen right in the center of town at Vincent United Methodist Church, 100 Vincent Place. The facility operates in the church cafeteria serving a full dinner at 12 p.m. every Saturday excluding the first weekend of each month. On the fourth Saturday of the month patrons will receive a bag of groceries to take with them.

The initiative is a joint effort of four Nutley churches and volunteers from the area. Vincent United, Grace Episcopal and Reason for Hope rotate each week, with St. Mary’s picking up the extra Saturday when a fifth falls in a calendar month. The kitchen also receives support from Franklin Reformed, Holy Family, Holy Trinity Lutheran, all of Nutley; and volunteers from Queen of Peace in North Arlington as well as Girl Scouts and even people from Clifton help out in this joint effort of feeding the hungry.

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This care kitchen is free and open to anyone who walks through the doors. No one is turned away and no questions are asked to those who enter. “Some seniors come for fellowship, they are lonely,” said Barbara Carrino, director of the care kitchen/care pantry.

According to Carrino the kitchen serves about 55 people in the beginning of the month. “The count grows each week to about 85 people at the end of the month,” she said. “There was 96 people at one sitting,” she added.

Guests are able to take a second portion home if there are leftovers. Also the kitchen even services “shut-ins,” people who are confined to their dwelling. “People call and volunteers deliver to them,” Kearns explained.

An example of a hot meal someone can expect was served when TAPinto paid a visit. The patrons received homemade minestrone soup, turkey breast with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. Dishes of desserts are made for each of the 12 tables, as well. “Sometimes salad is served if we have the fresh produce,” explained Kearns.

The food is supplied from the Community Food Bank of Hillside and volunteers also donate to the cause. “Somebody will buy bread, cake, salad [if something is needed] and everybody [volunteers] takes money out of their pocket; we put our own money into it,” explained volunteer Pam Kearns of North Arlington.

Another place folks in need can get a free hot meal is Toni’s Kitchen at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 73 South Fullerton Ave., Montclair. They serve meals three days a week at 11:30 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 5 p.m. every Sunday. Just like Nutley’s soup kitchen they also do not turn anyone away and never ask questions.

According to Assistant Director Tara Howaniec the kitchen also has a takeaway program, as well. “People can take food home with them to have another meal,” she said.

Volunteering

Volunteers spend around four hours on a Saturday preparing and serving the community at Vincent United. “Anyone can volunteer and help, you don’t have to belong to a church or organization. There are about 20 volunteers at a given time,” said Carrino.

“It’s neat to see when the children come help. They say ‘wow never knew in Nutley there was so much need’,” stated Rich Griese of Nutley.

Nutley High school sophomore Danielle Lohf has been volunteering her Saturdays at the soup kitchen for about six years.  “I really enjoy it, nice to socialize with people when they come for a meal,” she said.

“It’s a good thing. It’s nice to know you can help people. Its interesting everyone [patrons] comes with a story,” said Carrino.

For more information on Vincent United Methodist Church’s care kitchen call 973-667-5440 or visit vincentumc.org and click on ‘Care Ministries.’

For Toni’s Kitchen call 973-932-0768 or visit tk.slechurch.org.

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