Covenant Soup Kitchen receives support from volunteers and Breadbox Folk Music series

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., Apr. 2, 2013
Eastern student Carmine Giuliano (front) and UConn student Zach Bradley help prepare dinner at the Covenant Soup Kitchen on March 30. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Eastern student Carmine Giuliano (front) and UConn student Zach Bradley help prepare dinner at the Covenant Soup Kitchen on March 30. Photos by Melanie Savage.

At 4 p.m. on a gorgeous March 30 afternoon, several people were already waiting outside the Covenant Soup Kitchen on Valley St. in Willimantic. David said he’s been utilizing the soup kitchen for about 10 years. “What would people do during the day without this place to come to?” he asked. During the winter, the soup kitchen offers a respite from the cold during mealtimes, especially for the homeless. “This was a really brutal winter,” said David.


Unlike David, Jennifer is a newcomer to the soup kitchen. Trying to make ends meet on disability payments, Jennifer said she was living with her parents until they moved from the area in September. Jennifer can afford a room, but has trouble making ends meet after the middle of the month. Without the soup kitchen, she’d go hungry.


“They’re good people here,” said David.


Inside, in the basement kitchen, volunteers from UConn and Eastern Connecticut State University were preparing for the 5:30 p.m. dinner time. Taylor Heath, a UConn junior, said that she got involved last year through the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. Although she’s no longer a member of the fraternity, “I really liked coming, so I continued to come volunteer here,” said Heath. “I like coming every Saturday, seeing the same faces. And if we don’t come here, people don’t get fed.”


The Isaiah 58 ministry, through St. Paul’s Church, honors a mission to address the needs of the community “by providing not only food, but an environment of care, love, support, and safety to those who come through our doors,” according to the site. The ministry provides hot breakfasts, lunches, and occasional dinners, as well as the Client Choice Emergency Food Pantry, Sunday Bag Lunch, and care and advocacy programs. Covenant Soup Kitchen has a governing board consisting of members of the community and representatives from Saint Paul’s Church. The staff consists of three full-time employees. The programs depend on donations, volunteers and community support.


The Bread Box is one of the local community organizations that work to support the Covenant programs. “Our mission is to bring folk music to Willimantic and bring money to the soup kitchen,” said founder Bruce John. “It’s a win-win situation.” The Bread Box has transformed the sanctuary of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church into a 100-seat theater "with beautiful stained glass and a superb sound system," according to the organization’s web site. The group holds Artist Showcases on the third Wednesday of every month, featuring folk music acts from all over the local area. All proceeds go to the charity.


The Breadbox Folk Music Series bring in acts with national stature. Upcoming shows include Aztec Two Step on April 13, and Christine Ohlman (lead vocalist for the Saturday Night Live Orchestra for 22 years) and Rebel Montez on May 5. “We try to raise awareness about local hunger,” said John’s wife, Therese. “People have no idea how many people are served here at the soup kitchen and the pantry.”


The March 20 Artist’s Showcase drew five local acts and a full-house audience.  Chuck Morgan and his wife, Noreen, have lived in Willimantic for decades, and have played together on guitar and fiddle for more than 20 years. Years ago, Morgan served as treasurer for the Covenant Soup Kitchen. “It’s an extremely essential need,” he said. “We’re very lucky to have it here working within the community.”


John and Martin Clark performed together on March 20, along with Jack Collins and Joe LeMieux, as The Renaissance Hicks. John, a Lebanon resident, said that his brother has been involved with The Breadbox for some time. John had been talked into coming along to play for the first time, and said that he’d probably be involved in future gigs. The Covenant Soup Kitchen is a great cause, said Clark. “And this has just been so much fun,” he added.


Find out how to volunteer at the Covenant Soup Kitchen and emergency food pantry at http://www.covenantsoupkitchen.org or 860-423-1643. Find out more about The Breadbox at http://www.breadboxfolk.org, or call Bruce John at 860-429-4220.


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