In the late 1970s, moved by the overwhelming and urgent needs of the starving poor, Msgr. Constantine Siconolfi, along with members of many religious traditions, formed a community partnership with a simple but deep mission… to feed the hungry.
Today, over 40 years later, this remains the core of our mission and purpose. Saint Francis Kitchen staff and volunteers strive to help others and serve with a spirit of compassion, respect and dignity.
Over the past few months, Saint Francis Kitchen staff, along with many volunteers, have prepared and distributed just over 20,000 hot and nutritious meals. These restaurant-quality seven- to eight-course meals include bread, a fresh green salad, a fresh fruit salad, starch, protein, vegetable, dessert, and, during the colder months, hot soup.
Those in need can receive a meal at Saint Francis Kitchen located at 500 Penn Ave. in Scranton seven days a week, including weekends and holidays from 11 a.m. to noon. We also serve an evening meal from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
A program called The Mid Valley Outreach Program is of particular interest to the communities of Midvalley and Upvalley. This is a collaborative effort involving St. Francis, local Catholic parishes, Lackawanna Heritage Apartments and the Carbondale Housing Authority. Each week on Wednesdays, the meal described above is provided to residents of Heritage Apartments in Olyphant starting at 11:30 a.m. and to the public at Holy Cross Parish, 200 Delaware Ave., Olyphant starting at noon.
Every Thursday, meals are distributed to the public at Saint Rose’s Church, 6 N. Church Street, Carbondale from noon. Meals are also served to residents of the Ben Franklin Apartments and the North and South Skyscrapers in Carbondale during the same period.
One of the best things about the Mid Valley Outreach Program is that it involves the locals in the service of the locals. While Saint Francis provides the food and the staff to prepare and deliver it, this program simply could not exist without local partners. Typically, eight to ten volunteers are needed each week to transfer bulk foods prepared and sent by the kitchen into individual servings. These volunteers also help distribute food to those in need and clean up the workspace after the food is distributed.
Another important iteration of our mission is to provide groceries and clothing to our siblings in need at the Saint Francis Free Clothing Store and the Saint Francis Client Choice Food Pantry, both located at 504 Penn Ave. in Scranton. Those who wish to receive or give food or clothing can go on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. In addition, the pantry is also open on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Other arrangements can be made for those who wish to donate items if necessary.
Frequently, people who visit our kitchen, pantry and satellite locations tell me how grateful they are to receive hot meals, groceries and clothing from our outreach programs and how much they appreciate it. receive much more than food and clothing when they are with us.
With some regularity, staff and volunteers express how privileged they feel to be involved in the mission to feed and clothe the poor and hungry among us. Our clients and volunteers tell me that they feel a deep and genuine sense of community and connection when they are with us.
The holidays provide us with a wonderful opportunity to remember and reflect on the many blessings we receive each day. At Saint Francis in Scranton, I am fortunate enough to spend time with people in need on a daily basis. Fortunately, every once in a while someone writes down these thoughts and feelings and gives them to me. It happened recently, so I thought I’d share it with you:
“They cook us hot meals every day. Snacks, drinks, sodas provided by grocery stores and donors who donate food / meals to help with what is already prepared for us. When I say we, I mean the less fortunate; those of us who can have a roof over our heads and pay rent and utilities, but no longer have the money to eat. We designate those who are homeless for several reasons. No income or not enough income to have a place. Live under bridges, in tents. Recovery of drug addicts and alcoholics. Some are hiding abuse. Some are drug addicts – alcoholics, drug addicts. Some have social disabilities such as autism, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder. We being different shapes, heights, sizes, skin color, hair color and style, some without hair. Some are clean, some are a little dirty, some are more than a little dirty – without judgment. Some are veterans.
We come here and you pray for food with us and for our health and safety. They always never forget us. They provide us with the essentials: toiletries, water, food. Blankets, winter hats, gloves, socks, scarves, sweaters, coats, hand warmers in winter. At Christmas they give a wrapped gift, so sweet to think of us. It is clear that some / most of us do not receive any gifts.
The staff and volunteers are so compassionate, generous and non-judgmental. “
Thinking about how grateful I am to be a link between those who help us serve and those we serve, I came to a deeper understanding of the dynamics at play. As I read this heartfelt post from a beautiful woman whom I have the pleasure of greeting several times a week, it occurred to me that she and I had perhaps spoken badly. Maybe my point of view and his shouldn’t be us and them but us. “We” are all part of the same human family. This fact connects us all in a real and meaningful way.
To find out more about Saint Francis Kitchen services and how to get involved, whether in Scranton or the Midvalleys and Upvalley, please visit our website, www.stfranciskitchen.org, visit us on Facebook at www.facebook. com / stfranciskitchen, or call 570-342-5556. Or you can contact the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Olyphant or the Holy Rose Catholic Church in Carbondale.
Rob Williams has been the Executive Director of the Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen since August 2019. He is responsible for managing the daily kitchen operations as well as community engagement.