Food is so central to our daily lives that it’s easy to take it for granted. Not so the over 700 people, more than 300 of them children, who are helped, month in and month out, by Chester Eastside, Inc.’s Food Center. It’s one of the biggest such operations in Delaware County. The figures are mind-boggling: In 2015 alone, the equivalent of over 120,000 meals. But it’s when you bring it down to human terms that you see what this can mean in people’s lives. Listen to Kim, mother of four children: “I visit the food center monthly. The food center helps me make the food last. I can stretch things for a week and make sure my children have food to eat.” And John: “The Food Center helps me at the end of the month. I don’t know what I would do without this food. I combine it with odds and ends so that I have enough to eat. I have used other cupboards in the past. This one has meat and I love that I can get a hot meal here at the same time.” Meat and a hot meal. Basics for most of us. An urgent matter if you happen to be down and out.
Because of Chester Eastside’s Food Center, 189 families were able to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner together this year. It’s not just the food. There’s a climate of acceptance, respect, and caring that’s not always present at food cupboards, unfortunately. One woman put it this way: “Sometimes they can be downright nasty, but here they are always pleasant and kind.”
That spirit of acceptance can come from once having been in the same position as those who now come for food. As one man put it, “I was in a dark place when I finally realized that I needed help with food and clothing. I would let my struggles affect how I acted. For a long time I was too proud to ask for help. It hurt too much. Then I overheard my friends who work with Chester Eastside talking about how much they wanted to give to someone who was truly in need, and finally I forced myself to say, ‘That person is me.’ I do not know where I would be today without the Food Center. Chester Eastside helped me and my family hold on when my situation was desperate. Everyone was so kind. Now I volunteer with Chester Eastside and it has changed me. Everyone has their own trouble and hurt that they are going through. When I am here, I put all that aside, and I speak to all our visitors with a kind word and a smile. Whatever their struggle is, I want to show them that they are welcome and there is help for them.” Mary is another volunteer who is doing some give-back. She first became involved with the Food Center when it was still at the old location. There she enrolled in cooking classes, where she got to take home ingredients to use her new cooking skills there. When Chester Eastside moved up the street to St.Paul’s, she moved with it.
Chris, another volunteer, says is it all: “Thank God for Chester Eastside!”