Immaculate Conception opens soup kitchen

  • Thursday, October 17, 2013

Stefan Rogenmoser/Gazette From left, Nag Yangco and Remi Silva cook up vegetable and beef soup with noodles.


Volunteers at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church are continuing a 450-year-old tradition as they serve those in need of a hot meal at their new soup kitchen.

The Saint Francis Caracciolo Café and Soup Kitchen is named after the Italian patron saint of chefs. Oct. 13 was his 450th birthday, according to Immaculate Conception Father Jason Caganap.

After eight weeks of preparation, Steve Gehrhardt organized 52 volunteers and oversaw the grand opening of the new soup kitchen on Oct. 8. It will be open the second Tuesday of each month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We’re here to serve the homeless, the needy and the lonely,” Gehrhardt said, adding that in addition to a hot meal they also offer companionship. “We’re here to serve the community on another day.”

The United Methodist Church on Redbank Road has a soup kitchen that is open on Wednesday and Friday. Gehrhardt said the Korean United Methodist Church near University Boulevard has a soup kitchen open every first and third Tuesday.

“Some are bakers, some are cooks, some are here for fellowship just to talk to other people,” Gehrhardt said of the volunteers. “I think it’s going to be a good addition to the city for the homeless and the needy. There are needy people, hungry people and homeless people in Goose Creek.

“To help just one person makes you feel good.”

A red and white poster from the Philippines depicting Caracciolo hangs in the community center where meals are served. During the grand opening he looks over the rows of tables, which are all filled.

“His life was to serve the poor,” Caganap said, adding that Caracciolo is also the founder of the Adorno Fathers of the church, which is Immaculate Conception’s branch.

Caracciolo was born in Villa Santa Maria, Italy, home to the oldest culinary institute.

“When I was a young priest I was at Eva’s Kitchen, a soup kitchen in New Jersey,” Caganap said. “I would like to bring that here to help those in need. That gave me a foundation. I went incognito at the soup kitchen. That’s where I got the idea of having a soup kitchen in the parish.”

At the time Caganap was at the St. Joseph Parrish in Lodi, N.J. Eva’s Kitchen, which is open daily and serves hundreds, is in St. Paterson, N.J.

“Thank the Lord and be grateful for all the blessings we have because we’re here as a family, as a community,” Caganap said as he addressed the crowd before blessing the food.

As of 11:40 a.m. they had served 49 guests. Gerhhardt said some guests were parishioners, but a lot of those sharing in the meal were new faces.

The church is located at 510 St. James Avenue.

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