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...