Guests can find nutritional, emotional and financial support at Covenant table

Volunteers and staff prepared 56,172 meals in 2015 at the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic, including bag lunches on Sundays, above. And the Emergency Food Pantry onsite provided another 81,873 meals.

If you stop by the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic at lunchtime, you will find 100 or more people sharing a meal in the old stone church building.

A mother and her 4-year-old child sit alongside a man in his 80s. Some at the table are unemployed; others are underemployed. A few live in homeless shelters or tents and use the Soup Kitchen as their only address for mail delivery.

A $7,000 Community Foundation grant from its Willimantic Welfare Bureau Fund helped make possible many of the 56,172 meals that were served at the Soup Kitchen in 2015. The grant also helped fund the Emergency Food Panty, which provided another 81,873 meals for local families that same year.

“The support of the Community Foundation is absolutely crucial to helping us meet the basic nutritional needs of about 5,000 people each year,” Interim Director Kimberly Clark says, adding that the instability of funding from several state agencies and severe budget cuts have taken food off the table for those who need it most.

The staff and volunteers of the Covenant Soup Kitchen recognize that people can be impoverished in many different ways: financially, physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.

“Those who show up at the Kitchen may receive more than just food,” Clark says.

The staff helps guests find a place to live and fill out forms for such things as access to health care and social services. They even provide vouchers so guests can launder their clothes, blankets or sleeping bags.

The need for the Soup Kitchen is great, but so is the sense of gratitude it inspires. When their circumstances in life have improved, past guests often drop by to thank the staff, make a small donation or offer to help in the kitchen.

One such visitor recently told the director, “This place got my mother through a hard time in her life, and I will never forget what a difference you made for our family.”

This place got my mother through a hard time in her life, and I will never forget what a difference you made for our family.

- Anonymous