The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Currents

October 23, 2008

Soup kitchen hours: Sporadic

Manpower shortages, rising food costs challenge Salvation Army soup kitchen’s operation

Even the soup kitchen is hurting.

Since the end of September, the soup kitchen at the Ashtabula Service Center of the Salvation Army has operated sporadically due to a manpower shortage.

Alice Hardin, service center coordinator, says the days of service are determined one at a time.

“When I come in at 8 o’clock, I decide then if we are going to have enough staff to cook a meal that day,” Hardin says.

There’s really no way for Hardin to notify clients that the kitchen won’t be operating on a given day, aside from hanging a sign on the front door. That usually means a wasted trip for clients for whom transportation is a problem.

She says many of the kitchen’s clients don’t have a telephone, so they can’t call ahead or access a recording. Indeed, Hardin says some of the soup kitchen clients live on the street or in the gulf.

The schedule fell apart this month after Hardin had to take time off for a medical issue. As the only staff member at the service center, Hardin had no choice but to close the kitchen during her absence. That led to rumors that the center had completely closed, which is not true, says the Rev. Michael Legg, who chairs the advisory committee.

“There are no plans to close it,” Legg says. “We actually want to expand services.”

Since Hardin returned to work, the soup kitchen has operated as staffing allowed. Overwhelmed by all the other requests handled by the service center, Hardin has lacked the time and energy to also run the soup kitchen. She says committed, concerned volunteers or a second staff member are needed.

The meals help residents stretch entitlements and low wages. The service center provides meals to walk-ins at the Lake Avenue location and also prepares food for three satellite sites, including Ashtabula Towers.

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