Following the dissolution of Our Lady of Assumption Parish, and with it, its soup kitchen, local churches have come together to offer a similar free service once a month a few blocks from where Assumption hosted its program.
Assumption was closed Dec. 31 as part of the Newark Archdiocese’s church consolidation in Bayonne. After the decision to close the church was announced last year, some wondered what would happen to the Cluster Soup Kitchen run by Assumption and the former St. Mary Star of the Sea and St. Andrew the Apostle parishes. St. Mary’s and St. Andrew’s are now joined as Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich Parish.
The soup kitchen, which served complete hot meals, was run from an Assumption building on 23rd Street near Kennedy Boulevard.
The soup kitchen survived at a new site, the All Saints Academy School on 13th Street between Avenue C and Broadway. But Assumption church leaders said there is no accessibility there for the handicapped, and that soup kitchen attendees might have a hardship going the 10 extra blocks to All Saints. Most of those who ate at Assumption lived in the area, do not have a car, and are either senior citizens or have ambulatory problems. Some are neighborhood homeless.
“We are open to anybody and everybody that’s hungry.” – Rev. Michael Kelly
This is where other churches from Bayonne and Jersey City enter the picture. After hearing about the Assumption site closure, officials from El-Shaddai Church, First Assembly of God, and TET Better Life Ministry, all in Bayonne, and Riverside Assembly of God in Jersey City, gathered to see how they could help.
“Realizing a need in our community, we decided to come together for the greater cause to continue the mission of providing hot meals in Bayonne in the midtown area,” said Norma Rosario of First Assembly of God.
Rosario, who works as a case manager providing rental assistance information for the homeless, said she saw the need for the program eating one day at KFC with her grandchildren.
“I saw a man going into the garbage can to look for food,” she said. “He was looking through the bones, to see what was edible. I said to myself there’s definitely a need here in Bayonne.”
Church leaders met with Janice Machin, who was co-leader of the Assumption soup kitchen for nine years, to discover what it took to run the program.
The group settled on opening a once-a-month hot-meal kitchen at 30 Prospect Avenue, on the corner of 21st Street.
During the week, the facility is a school, the Beacon Academy. Since it has a cafeteria and accessibility for the disabled, it can easily be used for the meals on weekends. Anyone in a wheelchair or with walking problems can be brought down to the dining area by elevator.
Starting on Jan. 30, the four churches will offer a hot meal from noon to 1 p.m., and anyone is welcome to come.
Bread of Life kitchen born
The center will be called the Bread of Life Kitchen, according to Rev. Michael Kelly, pastor of First Assembly of God. He said all are welcome to come for the meal, regardless of need.
“We are open to anybody and everybody that’s hungry,” he said.
The four churches are donating food and volunteers for the program. The group is planning to have enough food to feed 200 people each month.
If the kitchen gets fewer than 200, the leftover food will be packaged and sent home with attendees for their dinner the next day.
Though there are four houses of worship sponsoring the hot-meal program, Rev. Kelly said no one will be advocating any religion or services.
“We’re not there to proselytize,” he said. “We won’t even be wearing our church shirts.”
Extending meal, helping needy
Though the meal is starting off as a monthly offering for at least the first half of this year, the group hopes to eventually increase it to twice a month, if volunteers and donations allow.
Though the service does not yet include a food pantry, where nonperishable food items are distributed, Rosario said that is part of the group’s extended vision for the program.
Rev. Kelly said that anyone interested in volunteering at the hot-meal kitchen, or know people with a need for the service, may call First Assembly of God at (201) 858-3825 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.