VINELAND, N.J. – According to the January 2017 Point-In-Time count, 151 people in Cumberland County were homeless.
It’s difficult to assess how many of those people were in the city of Vineland alone, but with the help of the Spirit and Truth Ministries Soup Kitchen, there is a place for people in the area to come in off the streets for a warm meal and a little push in the right direction.
“Our poverty level in Cumberland County is extremely high,” says Spirit and Truth Ministries president, Reverend Michael Denelsbeck. “A lot of our guests that come in are the same people day [after] day. Some of them have enough money to have a place to live, but by paying rent they have no food.”
The Spirit and Truth Ministries Soup Kitchen has served roughly 35,000 people in 2017. It’s the only soup kitchen in Vineland that’s open five days a week, every week, with the exception of two holidays – Christmas and New Year Day.
“Much of our society is three paychecks from being homeless,” says Denelsbeck. “So, this can happen to anyone. They’re not just drug addicts, they’re not just people out of jail. These are people that have held steady jobs, and for one reason or another have lost their job, and they can’t afford to keep their homes.”
The soup kitchen works with volunteers at three different locations throughout the week, serving anywhere between 60 to 75 people a day.
Denelsbeck explains how it can be difficult because the soup kitchen only has one paid employee.
“This week, after the holidays, when we have so many volunteers that are traveling, we show up in the morning and we have no idea who’s going to be here to help us or not,” says Denelsbeck.
As if being mainly volunteer-based isn’t enough of a challenge, working out of three locations adds more complications for the group.
“With three different locations, we have to have three sets of everything, which becomes a burden on us financially trying to keep every kitchen stocked the way it’s supposed to be,” says Denelsbeck.
He adds that they are looking to consolidate with one centralized location that will help them expand their services. They currently go beyond serving hot meals by offering other assistance such as counseling.
“If we can help fill someone’s stomach and give them a little bit of hope, then we’ve done what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Denelsbeck.
Donate food, goods, money or services to Spirit and Truth Ministries by visiting their Facebook page.