Soup Kitchen hopes to attract 100 or more to holiday dinner
PAWTUCKET – It’s no surprise that, with the way inflation has hit the nation since the proverbial end of COVID, the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen has sustained a lightning strike.
But it’s also no surprise that the kitchen, headed by executive director Adrienne Marchetti, is still planning an impressive, delicious, hot turkey dinner with all the fixings on Thanksgiving Day in the basement of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Walcott Street between noon-1 p.m.
“We will continue to help the homeless and those who need it most,” Marchetti said Thursday while taking a rare break in cooking for attendees of the dinner rush. “We treat everyone like they would want to be treated themselves. The doors will open at 11:45, and we will serve until 1 p.m.. Everyone’s welcome – no questions asked.”
“But it has been hard to make ends meet; with inflation, it’s been very difficult,” she added. “Last year, we served about 51,000 meals; as of today, that number is over 70,000 and climbing because we’ve still got the rest of the month and December.
“That’s only the half of it: Then there’s the rise in food costs. Last year, buying food for about 51,000 meals, we were averaging $9001,000 a week. Now, it’s up to between $2,500-3,000 a week. Because the economy is so unstable, people who used to donate to us are struggling because of increasing costs in energy, food, gas, etc., so we’re not receiving as many donations.”
As if on cue, a man wandered into the dining room at the church looking rather lost. Marchetti asked if she could help him, and the man said he wanted to donate to the soup kitchen’s cause. She left the room, accepted his gift, wished him a “Happy Thanksgiving” and returned, saying he had given her $50.
“That was so nice, wasn’t it? We could use more of that.”
Marchetti indicated that the PSK Thanksgiving Day Dinner is now in its 11th year, as the kitchen’s founder, Ernie Marot, used to conduct it on the holiday Wednesday with three sittings.
“That turned out crazy because the same people kept coming back for more food, though you can understand why,” she said. “I always thought. ‘Who wants to eat turkey on the Wednesday before?’ Half the fun is walking into the house or cafeteria or whatever and smelling the turkey and the fixings. It’s about the anticipation. People really don’t eat turkey on a regular basis, so that’s special.”
Marchetti mentioned they held the dinner during the COVID years, 2020 and 2021, but they were poorly attended.
“I’d say we only had about 30 last year, which was only about 25 percent of what we normally get on the holiday,” he said. “I think people are still apprehensive about coming out, plus there was a lack of transportation. The last couple of years, we knew we couldn’t ask the city to provide transportation because there were still so many restrictions.
“This year, we asked the mayor and Mary Lou Moran, the Executive Director of the Leon Mathieu Senior Center, and they said they would definitely have it. John Belluscio, who drives for the senior center, he will make rounds at the St. Germain, Kennedy and Fogarty manors and across the street from the visitor center so people can get rides.
“He’ll be doing that Thanksgiving Day – with a smile, as always.”
Marchetti did say they would scale back on the number of volunteers this time around, mainly because they’re upward in age and folks are still worried about the “triple threat, or COVID, the flu and the respiratory disease going around,” she said. “That’s completely understandable. We used to have waiters and waitresses hand-deliver the food to the people sitting at tables, but now we’ll fill the plates, put them on trays and let the people come up and get them.”
Coastal One Bank, which is the old Pawtucket Credit Union, has donated between 10-12 turkeys, and Marchetti explained she would begin roasting them on Monday and Tuesday. The meal will also include mashed potatoes, stuffing, veggies (probably corn, carrots and green beans) and rolls, not to mention apple juice, which will be supplied by St. Raphael Academy Administrator and teacher Steve Vargas.
There won’t be coffee, Marchetti said, because most of the people don’t drink it. That’s good news for the kitchen workers, who usually have to throw it out, because coffee prices are so high nowadays.
Water will also be available to wash down several types of pies that have been donated by a compassionate, anonymous donor. They include apple, pumpkin, cherry, pecan and blueberry.
“That guy is so amazing!” Marchetti said, grinning. “I’m hoping to get over 100 people to come and have dinner with us, enjoy and celebrate. We have a lot to be thankful for, even though some have problems seeing it.
“Getting by is a challenge, but we all have to do it every day, so all we can do is the best we can.”