Hundreds Flock To Chelsea Soup Kitchen for Thanksgiving
CHELSEA — Victor Green never thought he'd eat Thanksgiving dinner at a church.
Then again, neither did many of the hundreds of people who showed up at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen for their annual holiday meal that included turkey will all the fixings.
The kitchen cooked roughly 100 turkeys and gave out more than 655 meals on Thursday morning.
Green, 30, said he's been coming to the soup kitchen at the Church of the Holy Apostles, at 296 Ninth Ave. for the past few months since losing his job, which he declined to specify. He was initially hesitant to eat at the soup kitchen, but his mom convinced him it was the best way to save money.
"I'm trying to move out of this phase," he said. "For now though, I'm here, and the food is good."
Danny, who didn't want to give his last name, said Thursday was his first time at the soup kitchen. He said he's employed, but recently lost two shifts at his job.
"I couldn't afford a meal like this, not anymore," he said, while scooping some of his share into a plastic container. "So I'm bringing some food home to my son."
According to a recently released report from the New York City Coalition Aganist Hunger, 78 percent of Manhattan soup kitchens surveyed reported feeding an increased number of people in the last 12 months with 35 percent saying this number increased "greatly." Nearly 75 percent said they received less government food and money in the last 12 months , and 43 percent said they were unable to distribute enough food to meet current demand.
Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen was struggling like other soup kitchens. It saw funding from the state's Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program more than halved earlier this year, cut from $330,000 to $150,000. Lines have been growing longer ever day with an average of 1,200 meals served daily.
Jess Woodward, a volunteer and counselling services director for the church said that Thanksgiving meant a lot of new faces at the soup kitchen.
"We've gotten to know many of the guests, and this is a higher number than usual for us," she said. "They come from all over — some can't afford to feed their kids, some are street homeless."
On Thursday, 77 volunteers spooned out the meal, which included turkey, cranberry sauce, rice pilaf, cranberry sauce, and yams. Holy Apostles typically doesn't give out dessert, but made an exception for Thanksgiving, handing out hearty platters of pumpkin pie and ice cream.
"This is the only day that volunteers have to sign up in advance," Woodward said. "We have to turn some away."
One of those volunteers was Lucy Evashevski, who came to Holy Apostles from Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The 61-year-old retired teacher said she comes to Manhattan three to four times a year to volunteer at the kitchen and visit her two kids.
"When I come to visit, my kids don't have to worry about what they're going to do with mom," she said. "It's so great to come down here, I'm the one who feels homeless when I leave — especially on Thanksgiving, you meet such amazing people."
While enjoying his meal, Green had lively conversations with the men at his table, noting that the meal was also "a social thing."
While he's trying hard to make sure he doesn't have to come back next year, he's glad that the kitchen was there when he needed it.
"I'm not sure what I'd do if it wasn't here," he said.