2011-11-24 / Front Page
Soup D’Shore: more than a soup kitchen
Monmouth U students, sorority members volunteer at community kitchen
John Buzza, the Monmouth University professor responsible for the weekly soup kitchen held 4-7 p.m. at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church on Broadway, said the kitchen has evolved into a gathering space for many patrons.
“It has gotten to become very social — probably 80 percent or more of our patrons are repeat,” Buzza said. “Everyone kind of knows everybody, everybody talks to one another,” he said. “It’s not only a place to have some food, but also a time to chat and speak to each other.”
Donald Leigh, one of Long Branch’s senior residents, has been a patron of Soup D’Shore for a few months and said that for a lot of seniors it’s a place to hang out with friends when you don’t feel like cooking.
“Theway Long Branch is, I’d say it’s very good for the community,” he said, “because there are so many poor people in town.
“I know a lot of people who come here.”
Soup D’Shore officially opened in April and serves meals every Tuesday. The community soup kitchen is entirely run by volunteers, largely students from the university.
Last week the kitchen had a special group of volunteers as members of Phi Sigma Sigma volunteered on Nov. 15.
Tanya Trinkle, a senior at Monmouth University, organized the community service for the sorority.
“Phi Sig does a lot of community service, so we thought it would be great to have a night here,” she said.
“We talked to Professor Buzza, who said they feed a lot of people each week and it’s expensive, so we thought it would be a good idea,” she added. “I’m just really excited [the sorority] was able to do this; it’s a great opportunity.”
Buzza said that food banks donate much of the food served and that the kitchen raises around $150 to $200 to pay for additional food.
Trinkle said sorority members raised about $160 to pay for food and decorations for the kitchen.
“We basically collected money so we could purchase all the food, and we have sisters coming here to volunteer their time,” she said. “We set it up so it would look a little more like a family dinner and less like a soup kitchen.”
Part of the decorations the sorority provided included balloons for children and individualized placemats with inspirational messages.
“I feel like community service is one of the big things we look forward to, and this is an opportunity that we don’t want to miss out on,” said Phi Sigma Sigma sister Brittney Rodrigues.
Buzza said the soup kitchen has grown since the first 33 patrons were served inApril to about 40 the second week of operation and has increased to more than 120 patrons a week in recent months.
Around 95 percent of the patrons live within walking distance in Long Branch and range from children to senior citizens.
Besides a hot meal, patrons can also pick up donated clothing and even a job opportunity.
“We make copies [of job listings] and we give it to the patrons that come, to help them with a little bit of employment,” Buzza said. “It’s not just a soup kitchen, it is more of a community kitchen.”
Phi Sigma Sigma currently has about 60 members, and Trinkle said that about 30 members spent time volunteering at the kitchen last week.
She said planning the event involved scheduling a date that would work for as many members as possible.
“It was a lot of work to get everyone’s schedule so the girls could come,” Trinkle said. “We had to plan accordingly to figure out how much money we had to raise to buy all the food and we had to collect money for all the decorations.”
Erin Kelly said that once the event was mentioned, the sorority members jumped on it.
“Tanya mentioned it and we were all, like, ‘Of course we’ll do it,’ ” she said. “Having one person smile is always a good thing, just to cheer them up so that they have a good day.”
Not every volunteer last week was a sorority member. Robert Hoffman, a junior at Monmouth University, said he has volunteered at the kitchen from the very beginning.
“It started off a little slow in the beginning just to get the word out, and then we had a huge success for our Halloween party,” he said. “We must have had over 100 people.
“We had kids here, we had people dressed up. It was probably one of the busiest days we’ve ever had here.”
Buzza said that as it gets colder, there would probably be more people coming to the kitchen.
“I think there will be more people that will come as we approach the winter season; I think more people will come during the holiday season,” he said. “I think it should be a busy winter, but that’s OK, we’re ready for it.”
Hoffman said that most weeks there are between 10 and 20 volunteers pitching in on chores like preparing the food, decorating the kitchen, serving food and cleaning up.
Buzza said that during the school year, there are a lot more volunteers available to help.
“Come the summer, then it is just the diehard students who dedicate their time and their efforts to it, and we get by,” he said .
Elizabeth Rimassa, a student volunteer since June, said that once college was back in session, more people volunteered.
“The word has spread really fast. A lot of people on campus have been coming here and seeing what it is all about,” she said.
Soup D’Shore was founded by Buzza, director of the Monmouth University Center for Entrepreneurship, and students in the university’s entrepreneurship program, which oversees the kitchen.
For more information about Soup D’Shore, visit the group’s website at www.soupdshore.org.