St. Vincent's Kitchen Celebrates 20 Years

Area churches, groups feed the hungry
during off-season at Hampton Beach

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, May 26, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of the the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Bob Preston talks about the Saint Vincent's Kitchen space, provided by his son who is also named Bob Preston, on Ashworth Avenue at Hampton Beach on Thursday. May 21. The soup kitchen provided a cook out for up to 100 of its volunteers Thursday.
[Scott Yates Photo]

HAMPTON -- Since 1989, the St. Vincent's Kitchen has been a blessing for many looking for a hot, home-cooked meal free of charge during the offseason at Hampton Beach.

It started out with Father George Ham of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Church serving food to runaway teens two nights a week in a cramped apartment on "C" Street.

Now, located in a former Laundromat at 37 Ashworth Ave., the kitchen is open each year from Columbus Day to Mothers Day -- five nights a week and Saturday -- with the aid of volunteers from live local churches and the Hampton Rotary Club.

On Thursday, May 21 over 70 volunteers who put their heart and soul into the operation came together to celebrate the end of another successful season.

Bob Preston. who owns the building where the soup kitchen is located, hosted an outdoor cookout to thank them.

"We just provide a space," Preston said. "It wouldn't happen without all the volunteers."

Dick Glennon, who keeps records for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, said it's really a community effort that goes into making the operation work.

While the Hampton church may have started it, the kitchen has grown thanks to other area churches and civic groups coming forward to help.

St. Vincent de Paul serves on Tuesdays and Thursdays; Trinity Episcopal Parish and Hampton Rotary take alternate Mondays; United Methodist Church serves on Wednesdays; and Faith Community Church on Fridays.

Saint Vincent's soup kitchen provided a cook out for up to 100 of its volunteers at its "C" Street location in Hampton Beach on Thursday.
[Scott Yates Photo]

The kitchen used to be closed on weekends, but a new Seabrook church, Healing Rain Ministries, formerly the Maranantha Church in Hampton, operates the soup kitchen on Saturdays, between 2 and 4 p.m.

"We served over 3,000 meals back in 2003," Glennon said. "Now we serve over 11,000 meals. We don't ask questions.

We don't know where (those we serve) come from or where they go. We just serve them. There are some folks that come year after year and then there are others you never see again."

Jack Leary, treasurer of St. Vincent de Paul Society, said currently an average of 67 people are served each night at the kitchen.

"Our satisfaction come from helping people," Leary said. "They come in hungry and they leave well fed."

Phil Fili, president of St. Vincent de Paul, said the amazing thing is the organization has never had to fund raise in order to keep the kitchen going. Organizers rely each week on the donations of churchgoers.

"There is one gentlemen that puts a $100 bill in the collection box every single week," he said. "We don't know his name, but it's really appreciated."

"But it isn't just the $100 bill," Lean' said. "People give change, fistful of dollars, $5s and $lOs.

"That is the thing that really gets me," he said. "There is so many people that are giving whether it's small or large."

Patrick Hagerty, Chef at Sharon's Sea Grill in Seabrook, is one of the many volunteers who donates food to the kitchen. He donates gallons of soup to the kitchen each week.

"People need it and I enjoy doing it," said. "I'm already making it for the restaurant, so why not make 10 gallons more?"

Pastor Brian Abasciano of the Faith Community Church in Hampton said members of his congregation have been volunteering their time at the kitchen for the last three years.

"This is our third year," Abasciano said. "We just wanted to share Jesus's love and fulfill the biblical call to feed the hungry."

Preston said over the years the kitchen has helped so many.

In addition to the kitchen, Dr. Jay Kaminski and other volunteers run a free medical clinic every other Tuesday night in the building.

Preston recalls one good story that sums up how good the food really is at the kitchen.

One night, a man mistook Saint Vincent's Kitchen for a regular restaurant, went in, was served and expected to get a bill, Preston recalls. He was told it was free.

"He came to the office the next day," said Preston, "left my dad (Robert Preston Sr.) $I00. He thought it was a restaurant."

Preston said Thursday night's celebration was the first time that all the groups have formally come together to meet one another.

"I wanted to get everyone together because they are all like-minded and a lot of them don't know each other because they work different nights," Preston said. "There is a lot of good stuff that happens in this community and it's good to acknowledge it every now and then."