Editor's Note: The following is a press release from the The Cranford-ElmoraSoup Kitchen.
The Cranford-ElmoraSoup Kitchen believes in miracles. Whenever there has been a need, no matter how difficult, the soup kitchen knew that somewhere, someone would provide. “This has been a year that has seen traumatic happenings and also wonderful, amazing events,” states Jean Wands, soup kitchencoordinator.
That was the case quite a few times throughout 2012. When Superstorm Sandy struck NJ, causing power outages, gas lines and adding to the number of those in need, the soup kitchen reluctantly decided to shut down for a Sunday, citing the difficulty of getting supplies and volunteers to their central location, The First Baptist Church of Elizabeth, 402 Union Ave. “Sandy came, visited and did her dastardly deeds,” explains Wands.
However, when a member from the Fanwood Presbyterian Churchheard about the cancelation, a team immediate gathered bags of food and donated to the guests outside of the church. But Sandy was not through yet.
Though volunteers were able to get food out one Sunday, Sandy threatened to ruin the following Sunday as well, again due to the lack of power and wreckage that the storm brought. Team members would not allow Sandy to bring them down, though. More volunteers flocked to the soup kitchen and stood outside distributing bagged lunches with sandwiches and other snacks. Finally, things started settling back to what Governor Chris Christie dubbed the “new normal”. Power was restored throughout most areas and people were preparing to clean up.
The Cranford-ElmoraSoup Kitchen was no different. When the volunteers were able to enter the church and survey the damage, they found that all of the food in the refrigerator and the two freezers had to be discarded, causing a bit of a money loss for the organization.
Thankfully, the Elizabeth Presbytery’s Crisis Management Team, an organization officially established in Sept 2012 to respond to all kinds of disasters from Elizabeth to Frenchtown and some of the north and south areas of NJ, granted the soup kitchen $1000 to help them recover from their loss. This allowed the soup kitchen to replace all the food that was lost during the storm and proved to be a great help.
Time went on and the soup kitchen prospered both with the help of volunteers and with the help of the outside community. The Korean Presbyterian Church, regular volunteers at the soup kitchen, provided a Thanksgiving dinner at their location, allowing for a change of atmosphere. In response, the City of Elizabeth provided buses to transport the soup kitchen guests to the church and back to the Cranford-Elmora location.
The organization also collected socks from Walnut Avenue Schoolin Cranford and the First Presbyterian Church of Cranford, gathering enough socks and toiletry items to keep the guests warm and happy from Christmas time and throughout winter.
The soup kitchen received a grant from The Exxon Mobil Foundation’s Volunteer Involvement Program, allowing them enough money to purchase a new coffee pot and several chairs which needed replacing. “This program has been growing and flourishing because of the commitment of each and every one (of the volunteers),” states Wands. “I have always believed that we are being watched and whenever have a problem, an answer appears.”
The soup kitchen is built on a very basic idea - each person will have a full meal on Sunday. After serving over 100,000 meals since their inception on March 12, 1989, they have successfully fulfilled this mission and plan to continue to do so, helping to serve men, women, families and children. Guests to the soup kitchen are served from 3 to 4 p.m. Volunteers then clean until 5 p.m., when they can go home and rest after both a physically and spiritually fulfilling day. For additional information about the Cranford-Elmora SoupKitchen, contact the First Presbyterian Church of Cranford at (908) 276-8440.
ABOUT THE CRANFORD-ELMORA SOUP KITCHEN: The Cranford-Elmora Soup Kitchen, located at 402 Union Ave, Elizabeth, began March 12, 1989 as a simple idea – Why can’t a group of people put a few sandwiches together and invite some of the hungry in for lunch? Now, after 24 years, the strictly-volunteersoup kitchen has served over 100,000 hot meals to the hungry and financially stressed in the Elizabeth area. Their basic objective is to provide nutritious meals that one would find at home in a friendly atmosphere, increasing the self-esteem of their guests while educating volunteers about teamwork and how to care for their fellow man.