Monday, December 20, 2010

Greatful Waiting

The line will stretch 50-60 people long; standing on the frozen ground. It's the Monday before Christmas and that means the distribution of food baskets for the holidays. Every family will receive a ham or turkey along with all the "fixin"s" for a hearty meal. In all, about 150 baskets will be given away.

What is most striking about this event is the patient, grateful waiting that takes place. Folks will stand in line for a long time, but still smile about how cold it is, saying they're thankful it's not snowing. They will clap their hands together to help keep warm, but no one grumbles. They are thankful to live in a caring community, to have a place to come to that will help care for them...

Monday, December 13, 2010

There's Always Santa

Weeks ago we concluded sign-ups for our Christmas adoption program. The parents that come to our food pantry can register their kids to receive gifts, and we pass along those gift requests to caring people to "adopt" the children. We have more then 300 children signed up that need gifts, and a waiting list as well.

One of the parents on the waiting list was particularly desperate. But her young child wasn't worried. She told her mom that Santa doesn't care that they don't have any money. He will still bring them something...

Monday, December 6, 2010


On Saturday I was helping with the Penn Suburban Chamber 5K run, stationed at about the half-way point of the race. About 10 minutes after the race started, two young men were flying by with no one else in sight. A few minutes later a couple more streamed past, then small groupings of runners, then finally the stragglers.

It was these final participants that brought the word "courage" to mind. They knew from the beginning that they were not going to win - they were just hopeful to finish. But there they were, showing up for the race, giving their all. And so it was for these few that I cheered the loudest, encouraging them on.

Their effort reminded me of the people that come to Manna on Main Street. They too are doing their best. And it takes courage to show up at a soup kitchen; to say to yourself that you know you're not winning. So too for them, we cheer and encourage them along in the race...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hiding in the Kitchen

Often there are new groups that come in to serve a meal at Manna. Sometimes the group will provide the food, other times, Manna will take care of the meal. It is always interesting to see the dynamics of a new team of volunteers. They are excited to have the opportunity to serve, but there can be a hesitancy in interacting with the guests that come to eat. We encourage our volunteers to not hide in the kitchen, but to talk with the people they serve. While some guests prefer to eat then leave, most of them are more than willing to share their stories or just chat about every day events.

For many of us, we spend too much time hiding in the kitchen. There are risks to putting ourselves out there, in the middle of conversations; voicing opinions, asking important questions. Not only at this time of year, but continually, we are challenged to reach out, to make a difference, to let our voices (and our service) be heard...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving - Thanksreceiving

This past week has been an incredible one of giving and receiving. Looking at turkeys alone, more than 750 birds have been donated so far; equally impressive is the number of turkeys that have been distributed. By the end of Monday, more than 575 will have been given to our clients and to neighboring food pantries. We receive far more than we could possibly use, so we save some for the future and share most of them with like-minded organizations. After all, the donated food does not belong to us; it belongs to the community. We are just thankful to be on both ends of the giving and the receiving...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


When we see clients coming in for a meal or stopping by to pick up food for their family, we know the need is there. Why would someone come to a soup kitchen if they did not have a need. But sometimes we can become distracted where the need is not so apparent.

Yesterday an individual came to the food pantry for her bi-monthly supply of groceries, and she was driving a new, high-end car. For those new to serving people living on the edge, it can be hard to understand why someone would be driving a new car and still need help with food. Often times, people in need look for immediate gratification, what makes them feel good, without taking the long term view. They'll make poor choices; choices like buying things they can't really afford that keep them stuck at the bottom.

Our role isn't so much to criticize them, but to steer them toward making better decisions...

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Echo Effect

Kathy Davis recently commented about having a food drive for Manna on Main Steret. Part of her inspiration for that was her mother. Many years ago her mom had volunteered at Manna, preparing and serving soup. What is heartening is that we see this echo effect of giving being played out years beyond its founding. What kind of echo might you make...

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Long Slog

There are hints of optimism; some indicators that the economy may be on the mend, and that jobs are making a slight comeback. What we see is different. Perhaps it's because of the folks we work with... for the most part working poor. Their prospects continue to be pretty bleak. They don't have the education or training to lift themselves up from where they are today.

For the others we see: homeless, elderly and people with mental and physical challenges, the outlook is even worse. If recent college graduates are having trouble finding gainful employment, what are their possibilities?

This is not to say the situation is hopeless; on the contrary, we thrive on hope. It just further reinforces the importance of our work, our reaching out and lifting up those who need it the most...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Underground - Aboveground

Rob is the founder of "252 Underground" a youth ministry in Lansdale. As he was talking about the food drive they're having Manna on Main Street, he shared some of the misconceptions that some adults have about his outreach. Some believe it's a hang-out for gangs; a place where drugs and violence is prevalent; a place filled with undesirables.

It brought back memories of Manna's beginnings. There was a lot of resistance to the idea of a soup kitchen. Some thought it would attract the wrong kind of people; that it would be nothing but trouble. Frankly, there are times when troublesome individuals show up. But on the whole, what we see are people that are hurting. People looking for help, looking for some hope.

Manna is fortunate now, to be established, above ground. But like Rob, we often need to dig down deep, to help lift up those that need it the most...

Monday, October 18, 2010


Post-harvest would seem to be the season at hand. Dried corn chalks, tomato vines withered, pumpkins awaiting the carving knife.

But we are always planting. Looking for opportunities to grow our service, change lives, make a lasting difference. There is simply too much need to be content, to wait for spring to arrive...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Time Out

Sometimes, we all need a time-out. To be told to sit down, take a break, think about our actions.

Our guests are just like us. They act out, ignore the rules, try to take control.

So we tell them to take some time off from Manna; a couple days, a week at most. When they return, all is forgotten. They're happy to be back, we're happy to see them again.

We care too much about them to just let them do what they want. Even for folks who have fallen on hard times, it's important for them to be reminded about respect, responsibility...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Happy Meals

One would think that the soup kitchen at Manna offers a very dismal atmosphere. After all, most of the individuals that eat there are dealing with significant life challenges: homelessness, failing health, dismal job prospects, loneliness.

While all that may be true, there is also a positive energy that flows around any table where people are gathered to eat. Life stories are shared, and there is comedy and laughter to be found in both the good and bad experiences. The volunteers that serve are a real treasure. They share their lives as well that at times came mirror the circumstances of those at the table. And there are also staff members that will sit at the table - listening to the guests, sharing their concerns and connecting with them at a deep, human level.

There are times when the meals are quiet, reflecting a contemplative mood. But more often than not, there is more joy in the meals served at Manna than could be found in any "Happy Meal" anywhere...

Monday, September 27, 2010

29th on the 28th

September 28th, 29 years ago, the glimmer of an idea emerged.

A name was assigned at the time: Interfaith Community Services or ICS. The intent was to bring together different faith-based organizations to provide food to people in need.

From some corners of the community there were questions. Hungry people here? From others, there was down-right resistance. We don't want those people coming to our town. In the end, clearer minds prevailed.

After operating from the basement of St. John's United Church of Christ for two years, a simple brick building was contributed to the cause. The name Manna on Main Street was chosen, which raised more questions. Manna? Bread from heaven?

It all seems so logical today. So clear, so obvious. The name, the cause , the need.

The glimmer of an idea: that everyone might be fed...

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's Free???

The woman came in Manna's door, looking confused. She looked to be in her late-60s.

"Can I help you?"
"Someone told me I could come here for food. I live in Hatfield and have been having some health problems." She held up her cane. "I had to give up my car because of the medical bills, so it's been hard for me lately. I'm really hungry"
"There are two food cupboards closer to you; they're in Hatfield - here's the information on how to reach them; but if you're hungry, you're welcome to eat with us now. The food's very good and it's free."
"It's free?" she said, and took off her sunglasses. Her bottom lip began to quiver. "It's free," she repeated, almost a whisper.

Another person, hungry, fed.

Nothing new or different on Main Street...

Monday, September 13, 2010


To many individuals, this an unfamiliar word. To Manna, it is very well-known. Every year, our friends from the North Penn Mosque celebrate Eid ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. And every year as part of their celebration, they deliver Eid baskets to us: baskets filled with various food items and a generous supply of gift cards to be given to families in need.

It is a real joy to be able to share these gifts with people who struggle to make ends meet - it allows them to purchase simple, much needed items like clothing, toiletries, and the other everyday goods that most of us take for granted.

We are humbled to be a part of this unusual work, where both the mainstream and the unfamiliar find their way in making a difference in people's lives...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Small and Safe or Large and Scary

Which one of these describes Manna on Main Street?

Actually, it's both. Manna is a small place: about 15 seats for dining, staff crammed into tight spaces and food everywhere. It's a safe place as well, where people can have a quiet meal without any pressure or hassles. Anyone can find refuge within these walls.

Oddly enough, that's what makes Manna large and scary. Our outreach has no bounds. Anyone can walk in, which means that folks with different, challenging issues find their way here. It can be scary, not knowing what someone has experienced in their life and how they will react to a given situation.

Fortunately, in our 28 year history, we've never had a situation where the large and scary realities have led to anyone being in physical danger. That we attribute to the sense of welcoming, that small and safeness that makes Manna an unusual, yet affirming place to be...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Back From Vacation

A few of Manna's clients were sitting around the table, discussing their summer activities:

  • My sister lives in Oregon, so I flew up to see her and the kids. It was great, having the chance to reconnect with family.
  • Since my husband left a few years ago, the kids and I have never gotten away, so we spent the last week at the shore. We rented a small condo, went to the beach and got to relax for a change.
  • I retired 25 years ago, so to celebrate, my wife and I went to the Virgin Islands.
Obviously, this is absurd. Our clients never really get a vacation or the opportunity to recharge. For them, it is an unending, relentless saga - worrying about food, their health, often wondering if they will have a bed to sleep in for days to come...

Monday, August 23, 2010


It would have been easier to just hold a tournament. Instead, the teens from the Upper Gwynedd tennis camp changed it to a food fund raiser for Manna. Sometimes we hear comments about young people doing things only for themselves. At Manna, we find it to be just the opposite...

Monday, August 16, 2010

4,152.3 Pounds of Food

No, that's not what's in the bag (obviously).

4,152.3 pounds of food is what was donated to Manna at this past weekend's community food drive. A part of the credit goes to Dena Fritz (pictured) of The Reporter, who helped promote the drive over the past few weeks with a great article on community needs, as well a some well placed advertising.

As always, the big reason for the success of the drive is the good people in the North Penn area: the community captains that distributed bags throughout their neighborhoods and delivered the bags to Manna, and the wonderful people that donated the goods. What an amazing, giving community we are a part of...

Monday, August 9, 2010

No Parking

Nadja is Manna's case manger - she meets with people that need help, determines whether we can provide any type of aid, and often refers folks to other organizations. At times it can be difficult for people to see her and maneuver around our building. There are steps, narrow hallways and supplies of food stored in random places.

Last week, a client hobbled back to her office. The gentleman sat down, a bit out of breath, and said, "I left my wheelchair outside, do you think anyone will steal it?"

Just another reminder that we need to be vigilant in making Manna a welcoming place for everyone...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Scaring-up Food

Gemalto, a local manufacturing company, came up with an idea last year: start a garden and donate the harvest to Manna on Main Street. They had some open space next to their facility and so a team of employees planned out the garden, planted seeds and tended the plants. Every week, the good folks from Gemalto visit Manna with fresh produce and herbs. Just another example of how folks in our community find ways to give back...

Monday, July 26, 2010


The word irregulars can have a negative connotation to it - it indicates that something is out of synche with the norm. Lately, there have been a lot of irregulars at Manna on Main Street, and that is a good thing. But first, Manna's definition of regulars: volunteers who serve on a regular basis. We love our regulars. They help at the soup kitchen or food cupboard all year long, with some of them coming every week. During the summer time, we offer them the opportunity to take some time off so the "irregulars" can have a chance to serve.

The irregulars are often students that have off for the summer, business teams looking for a service project and families wanting to have a joint activity. More often than not, the irregulars do not have a good handle on all the activities at Manna and things can get a bit chaotic. They don't know where to find the napkins, they're unsure where to put a donation and they are baffled by the some of the requests from our guests. But all of that doesn't mean too much. What really matters is that they are excited about serving and helping others. They bring a new-found energy and passion to the work at hand. Kids that come to help often run back to the kitchen so they can serve the next plate of food. And the adults have as much fun as the young people when they have their chance to sign our walls after they are done serving.

Just like our regulars, we love our irregulars as well...

Monday, July 19, 2010

No Power

This weekend the power went out at Manna. There was momentary confusion as we searched for the main circuit breaker. It took a few tries, but we figured it out and the lights came back on.

Many of the folks that come to Manna for help experience "no power" as well. Except for them, it's not as simple as flipping a switch. They may not have the tools, the knowledge, the patience (the list goes on) to make the necessary adjustment. And so we are here for them, along with many caring neighbors, to help them reset, re-energize and move on with their lives...

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Do Not Call" Listing

Good people continue to struggle because of:

  • no job
  • health issues
  • life emergencies
More and more agencies are also out of funding. Even some of the partners we usually rely upon have told us:

  • don't give out our name
  • don't call us
  • we can't do anything right now.

You won't find Manna on that list...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

100 Million Visitors

Backdrop: Lansdale Borough; 3.1 square miles, population ~ 16,000.

What would it be like if over the course of the year, that Lansdale would have 100 million visitors. Why would they have come; what would have been so compelling that 100 million unique individuals would have trekked to this small town.

A shift in focus: Manna on Main Street, 2,000 square feet (generously); volunteers ~ 2,400.

It's the same scale! 100 million visitors to Lansdale would be the same as Manna having 2,400 volunteers over the course of a year. What is it that's so compelling about Manna. Some of that answer lies in our mission of taking care of people in need; a portion of it is because we're very accommodating when people want to help. Too, it says a lot about the type of people we are. "We" meaning, the people in this and our extended community. We all want to help and give back to a cause that is larger than all of us...

Monday, June 28, 2010


This past week I attended a golf outing hosted by ITW Polymer Technologies. For the past 15 years they're been hosting the event; ITW invites their business partners to play a low-key round of golf, and all the funds collected are given to Manna on Main Street and Newark Family Services.

One of the highlights from this year's event came at the end of the day, when a 40" flat screen TV was raffled off (tickets were $20 each). When the lucky winner came forward, he held up his hands to make an announcement: he was donating the TV back to Manna and immediately kicked off a live auction. The bidding started slowly at first, but the final bid came in at $450.

What was striking was not the amount of money that was given, but the spirit of the giving. All from a gathering a caring individuals, most that will never even see Manna or the impact their giving will make...

Monday, June 21, 2010


Sometimes it seems we have too many rules. Rules for our guests, like:
  • Turn off your cell phone
  • No asking for money, rides or cigarettes
  • Stay out of the refrigerators
  • No take-out meals
The list goes on and on. For the most part they protect the guests and make things somewhat easier for the volunteers, although at times guests and volunteers alike don't remember all the rules.

We have one primary rule for those who serve at Manna: that everyone is treated with dignity and respect. It's a simple, yet big rule. We try to remember that most everyone that comes to eat at Manna would rather not have to come; that they don't have much of a choice. For many of us, we are just one significant life event away from having to rely on others... for a kind word, a caring smile, a bowl of soup...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Small Choices

Plastic ware seems like an insignificant topic. Plastic is plastic. What does it matter the type of plastic being used.

Actually, it's a big deal. It sends a message about the type of organization we are and how we treat our guests. Years ago we relied upon donated plastic forks, knives and spoons from a local manufacturer. It was the cheapest route for us to take. The company would frequently have rejects they couldn't sell. Never mind the fact that the forks would routinely break, that the knives couldn't cut and the spoons were hardly usable for soup. And then there were the sporks, a multi-purpose, entirely useless eating instrument.

So we changed. We now purchase heavy-duty plastic ware. The knives actually cut, the forks hold up under pressure and the spoons are designed for eating soup. It's one of the small measures we take to show that our clients have value and worth; that coming to a soup kitchen should not be denigrated by providing shoddy service. We look forward to the day when we have an industrial dish washer: just think, real silverware, plates, perhaps even linens...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Absolutely No Service (sort of)

Weekends at Manna on Main Street are reserved for the soup kitchen only. We don't operate the food pantry or provide any case management services. The intent is to set boundaries for clients, to help them plan ahead and not run to us when minor emergencies arise. It also gives our staff a bit of a break from responding to crises seven days a week.

This past weekend was a little different. A young man called and explained that his insulin prescription had been exhausted. He didn't want to bother us on Friday and was hopeful he could get help from one of his family members to have the prescription filled. It didn't work out, and so he called us. We could have told him to call back on Monday, or go to the hospital emergency room; but in the long run it would made his life more difficult and more expensive for our community to provide care. So we called the local pharmacy and told them we would cover the cost of his medication.

Sometimes breaking our own rules is the best thing we do...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Good Food, Bad Food

Most of the food at Manna is donated. Individuals, groups, grocery stores give what they can, and we are thankful. Still, the people who come to eat at Manna deserve good food. For many of them, the meal they eat at Manna is their only meal. It raises a number of questions:
  • how often should we serve pasta and tomato sauce
  • how many leftover donuts do we make available
  • are sugary drink mixes acceptable
We continue to sort out these questions, balancing what we can do, what we need to do...

Monday, May 24, 2010


"All you can eat" sends a message of:
  • Self-absorption
  • Gluttony, excess, hoarding
  • It's not free... a price is to be paid

"All, you can eat" indicates:
  • A moment of reflection
  • An openness to giving, sharing the loaf
  • Freedom from constraints
A simple comma changes everything. It gives a bit of space, a pause to consider what might be.

Perhaps you can be a comma, that pause, that moment of reflection that changes everything...

Monday, May 17, 2010

No Customers

Many marketing experts are encouraging nonprofits today to think about the people that come to them for help, as customers. The thought process supporting that is that if we treat them like a customer, we will serve them better.

Actually, that can be a dangerous approach. The mindset behind a customer relationship is that the individual has a choice; that they can decide whether to utilize your services or not. Most individuals that come to Manna do not have a choice. As soon as we start treating them like customers, that they can leave if they don't like our services, we marginalize them.

What really works is to not treat them as anything, but to simply act as a servant...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Good Rocks

Found by the sidewalk a few blocks from Manna.

What small, yet powerful action might you take to promote the good in this world...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Imagine Manna

That's exactly what happened. Nearly 30 years ago, a man had a vision that there would be a place where everyone might be fed; not only in the physical sense, but in mind and spirit as well. That man, John Touchberry, passed from this earth last week, having fully lived 80 years.

Today, we're all used to having Manna around, but establishing a soup kitchen back in the early 80s entailed risks. A number of folks tried to prevent Manna from even opening, for fear of "those people" it would attract.

While it would be simple enough for us to look back on the quantity of meals served at Manna, or the tons of food distributed, or the number of families assisted in his lifetime, John would not be satisfied with sentimental reflections. Instead, he would challenge us to look beyond where we are; to look for other opportunities to learn and grow in order to serve others.

Manna is in the early stages of looking for a new facility, and it is appropriate, more than ever, for us to look forward and dream of what we might yet be. What can we imagine? Can we look beyond the edges of where we are today and dream what that might mean for this community? How can we improve our service to others? John would certainly have some ideas...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Giving Thanks

This past Friday was Manna's annual thank-you dinner for its volunteers and helpers. Nearly 150 caring folks gathered at the North Montco Technical Career School - a fabulous meal was prepared by Chef Charles Cole and his students. It was a fun, low-key evening.

As part of the program, we shared some comments from the people who come to Manna. We had asked them to share their thoughts on the helpers who serve them. Some of their thoughts were:

  • I appreciate the volunteers at Manna because they are taking time out of their lives to make a difference in ours.
  • I really appreciate all the helpers at Manna on Main Street in Lansdale. I wish my sisters were as nice as them.
  • Great group of people - they are awesome and very helpful and willing to help with everything. Keep up the good work. Rock on!
  • I appreciate all the volunteer work that is done because life is hard right now and sometimes I can be very discouraged. It's good to know that there are people out there that care from their hearts. It's nice to have someone there when it is needed the most. Thank you all for everything.

Thank you all for everything; for your caring hearts; for being there when it is needed the most.

Thanks from real people in need, to those who give...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Little by Little

A couple of weeks ago the nursing students from Montgomery County Community College visited Manna. On a regular basis, Pam Pfalzer a professor of nursing at the college, brings students to do health checks for the guests. In addition to doing blood pressure checks, the students were also measuring blood sugar levels.

One of the more interesting outcomes of their visit was a discussion with an individual who has had a life-long battle with obesity. It turns out that over the past six months he has lost about 50 pounds. He couldn't say that he was doing anything differently, but, he was happy about the change. While he may be unaware, there is one thing that has changed significantly in the past six months: Manna has been serving healthier meals. We have eliminated most of the sweets available, and each meal usually includes one fruit or vegetable. In addition, the volunteers are more aware of portion control and there are more discussions about eating healthier foods.

Pam noted the importance of our clients being in a supportive environment, one that encourages them to think differently about their lifestyle. She recommend we continue with the approach to not pressure them to change, but simply offer them suggestions and alternatives. Little by little, we can make a big difference...

Monday, April 12, 2010


One year ago, this was a dream of ours: fresh produce being a part of our daily meals. While we were receiving some fresh food items from local grocery stores, it would usually wind up being given out for the food pantry. And though it was nice for families to have fresh produce to take home with them, our soup kitchen guests were not enjoying the benefits of a healthier diet.

Now it's a different story. Nearly every day there is either a salad or fresh fruit. Often the soups are made from scratch. We often joke about being a five-star soup kitchen (see the current newsletter). But each day, with the help of our food service manager, Barry, we're getting closer to making that a reality.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Two for the price of Two

Come visit the Whole Foods grocery store in North Wales this Friday between 11 am and 2 pm. We will be there along with other members from the Community Nutrition Coalition for another "Fresh Food Drive." The concept is pretty simple: do you regular grocery shopping, and when you select your produce, pick up an extra item to donate to your local food cupboard.

"Two for the price of Two" can really apply to any time you're going shopping, and the goods wouldn't necessarily have to be dropped off at Manna. Perhaps you know a neighboring family having some financial difficulty. Or it could be a family member that is struggling. Perhaps an elderly person you know. You could just stop over and say it was a "buy one, get one free" deal - they don't really need to know all the details...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Destruction, Deliverance

Last week, last year, ten years ago...

  • A young mother with a drug addiction neglects her 8-year old daughter
  • Alcohol continues to hold back a middle-aged gentleman from finding a job
  • The woman with a mental illness complains about abuse from her partner, but never leaves him
It can be disheartening at times, being a constant witness to the challenges people face; people we can feel as close to as family. We could judge them and insist that they create their own problems, make bad decisions, choose to be in that situation. Instead, we do our best to be supportive, make them aware of their options, point them to a potentially better path.

Occasionally, one of them breaks free from the demons that hover about them. That's when we celebrate.

But, it's been a while.

Perhaps this week...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Less Than Perfect

In spite of all the good we attempt to do, there are still a number of things that keep us from moving forward, and being all that we want to be. For example:

  • We serve our meals on flimsy paper plates, instead of real china
  • There is seating for only 15 people - sometimes folks have to wait outside
  • Too often we refuse financial aid to someone in need
  • Pies, cakes and other sweets are too often found on our shelves
  • Far too many volunteers are turned away for lack of space to accommodate them
These, and the many other imperfections we live with can actually be good. They confront us every day and challenge us. How can we increase our service to people in need? How can we better engage our volunteers to help make a difference in people's lives? How can we make our small operating space larger in our outreach?

Less than perfect helps us to maintain our heart, our passion, our striving to do more...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Generous Winners Redux

JT, the winner of our cookie guessing contest is an elderly gentleman who lives alone. For his custom dinner, he requested, and Barry, our food service manager, prepared for him Flounder Francoise, asparagus and red bliss potatoes, along with an appetizer of cheese and fruit. One of our volunteers ran down to the local thrift store and picked up some china and silverware (the thrift store insisted on selling the items to us for 1 cent). JT arrived in a suit and tie and the other staff members, Liz and Nadja served him.

The next day JT dropped off a thank you card, expressing how deeply he was touched by the experience. For us it was one of those lump in the throat experiences, one that affirmed who we are, and probably gave us a customer for life...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Great Pumpkin... erm Orange?

No one really knows for sure what produce item she represents, but Moriah Zimmerman from the Food Trust was a big help in our fresh produce drive. Landis' Market in Souderton allowed the Community Nutrition Coalition to hold the drive at their store, and we collected over 850 pounds of potatoes, oranges, apples and other fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Community Nutrition Coalition is a network of local food pantries working together to provide food and nutrition education to people in need living in the North Penn and Indian Valley region.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Beauty of Tedium

Every day it's the same thing:
  • Put soup on the stove top, meal in the oven
  • Restock the plates, cups, plastic-ware and napkins
  • Serve a meal to the guests
  • Clean up
  • Restock shelves for the food pantry
  • Help guests with the grocery shopping
  • Clean up
  • Put the afternoon meal in the oven
  • And on and on
Day after day, year upon year, the routine is repeated. What keeps us going is the beauty this tedium brings about. The guests are grateful, volunteers are fulfilled and everyone looks forward to the next day...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Generous Winners

When Barry, Manna's food service manager, saw the barrel of cookies, he knew what he had to do... have a contest. He counted the cookies then posted a sign for all our guests: whoever guessed the number of cookies would receive a custom-prepared meal for two, plus the jar of cookies. One entry was allowed per dining session, and the competition was held for one week.

In the end, JT came the closest to the actual number (guessed within two of the 972 official count). And when it came time for JT to claim his prize, he asked for a bowl to share the cookies with everyone at the table. He also said that since he lived by himself, he only needed one meal, not two. JT's generosity really reflects the spirit of giving at Manna, be it from volunteers, staff or guests..

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Be My Turkey Valentine

Sarah, Annie and Paul were supposed to serve a meal at Manna on Saturday the 6th, but they were snowed out. So, to make up for the time they missed, they brought in Valentines goodie bags and flowers to go along with the Thanksgiving/Valentines food baskets that were distributed this past Friday.

In the past, Sarah made Rosary beads and sold them to benefit Manna. We are always inspired by what the young people in our community do to help care for people in need...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Caring... but Calculating

As a nonprofit soup kitchen, it is natural that we are a caring organization. We welcome anyone who is hungry, and provide a safe place for people to come together and be fed. At the same time, we are very methodical in how we run our business. There is a budget in place; we never spend more than we take in. The surplus at the end of each year is invested conservatively, so that we have a guaranteed reserve in the event of an emergency.

When an individual or family asks for financial aid, we perform a thorough background check to validate the need. The checks are never paid to the individual, but to the landlord, utility company or health care provider. We even calculate our success rate of keeping people in their household (last year it was 94%).

In our partnerships, we align ourselves only with the best organizations in the community - agencies like the North Penn Boys & Girls Club, the Lamb Foundation, the North Penn YMCA, Keystone Opportunity Center, Laural House - those who have proven to make a positive impact on the people they serve. By working with and learning from our partners, we improve our operating methods.

We are indeed very calculating... because we care.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

More Alike Than Not

We (staff, volunteers, random folks who come through our doors) don't always dress the same, but it seems we do attract a certain type of individual. People who are kind and thoughtful; those who tend not to ask, "What's in it for me?" but, "What's in me for others?" No matter what you wear, perhaps you're the kind of person who would stop in...

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Richie (not his real name) is a young man who eats at Manna on a regular basis. He is always polite and appreciates what we do. Richie is a hip-hop artist and tells us he's on the verge of signing a music contract. He recently passed along a CD of his work for us to listen to. The language used in the songs might be offensive to some, but what emerges from the lyrics reflect the earlier hard times of his life: being a witness to a murder, having a nervous breakdown and a spiraling downward into the world of drugs. What is not so evident in his music is what he carries in his heart after his emergence from a troubled life: his faith in God, love for family and a striving to remain humble and yet focused on his goals.

It is often easy for us at Manna to look at a person as we see them today, and miss the things that have been layered in their lives. That is why we do our best to listen to their entire narrative before we determine how we can serve them. And for those who a reluctant to share their stories, we feed them as best we can...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cats Sited

Sitecats seems to be everywhere. That's one of the many reasons why they were chosen as the Small Business of the Year by the Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce.

More than eight years ago, John Ralston, Sitecats Chief Excitement Officer, approached Manna on Main Street. He said, "you need a web site, so I'm going to build one for you... no charge." Since then, John and his team has helped us maintain our site and keep us connected to the community. Not only does Sitecats do good work, they do good works.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fear - Despair - Hope

It would be easy enough for us to speak to the lowest common denominator in what is going on in society today. There is plenty of fear and despair to go around, and it would seem a soup kitchen would want to talk about how bad things are in order to shore up support for their cause.

Instead, we focus on the hope: the goods things that are happening around us, to show that in the midst of difficult times, there are positive events and caring people that lift us up.

Last weekend, the musical trio Braided Rain performed a benefit concert for Manna. It was their debut, and possibly their only concert. Their interest was in doing what they love to do... sharing their voices, and at the same time helping a cause that they believe in. Our hope for Madi, Caris and Erin is that they will find avenues to bring their music to others, but if they decide otherwise, we are certain they will continue to share the gift of themselves...

Sunday, January 3, 2010


The basement of Manna is where we try to store most of our nonperishable food. If you were to walk down the steps today you would notice an immediate problem. No, there is not a shortage of food... there is a shortage of storage space. Yes, there are shelves with areas designated for fruit, vegetables, tuna, etc. But in front of those shelves are boxes and bags of food, piled up almost to the ceiling.

A couple of weeks ago there was an issue with water due to heavy rainfall, and we lost some food because we were not able to get it off the floor. To help alleviate the space dilemma, we have some off-site storage, but moving the goods back and forth is not very efficient. In the near term, we simply have to live with the situation, but we remain optimistic that we will find a newer, larger facility that will provide us enough space to store and distribute all the food this community so generously shares...