In Center City, one nonprofit organization is providing Thanksgiving meals to those in need, but for Jessica Paschke, it shouldn’t just happen during the holidays.
“We are going to try and offer the perspective that holiday giving should be a season,” said Paschke, corporate and volunteer relations manager for the Broad Street Ministry Hospitality Collaborative. “If the goal is to be truly altruistic, it happens a lot more than just those two special days.”
At 315 S. Broad St., red doors open into a lobby. The path down a flight of stairs leads to a room where people are welcome to stay and socialize in addition to collect their mail, pick up toiletries or take out books—making it feel like a lobby or lounge of a dorm hall.
But the Broad Street Ministry is a church that feeds the needy in addition to providing services like mail collection. Ascending a flight of stairs leads to a grand hall complete with stained glass windows and hundreds of paper swallows that appear to float in the vast ceiling.
On the floor, tables are arranged with assigned numbers in addition to plates, glasses and silverware. Here, anyone who needs a meal can come in at the scheduled meal times and eat for free as a part of the Breaking Bread program.
The same rules apply for meals surrounding Thanksgiving. The Ministry, however, is not open Thanksgiving Day. Opting out of making turkey dinner for their guests ensures the guests will get more of what they need.
“Christmas and Thanksgiving are huge days for other places,” executive chef Steven Seibel said. “We had an issue of people coming in who were so full—some of these people never know when their next meal is going to be. So it’s [a mindset of] ‘pack in as much as you can,’ and people were getting sick. So we decided the best option was do to a Thanksgiving brunch the eve of.”
Food-focused nonprofit Honey’s Angels is sponsoring the Ministry’s Thanksgiving brunch for the first time this year.
Seibel wasn’t ready to announce the menu yet, but said that they always try and incorporate traditional Thanksgiving flavors, including breakfast bread pudding stuffing with cranberries.
“We try and keep it festive,” Seibel said.
The Ministry’s attention to elements of service is focused on running a program that doesn’t trigger emotional distress or violence. Food is served restaurant style, from the back of the room to the front of the room. Guests are welcome to stay as long as the dining room is open. Instead of waiting in line, volunteers take on the role of servers to provide table service.
“There’s a specific way of doing things to reduce stress on our guests,” said regular volunteer and Temple Owls Community Choir singer Jeannine Baldomero. “You feel love boiling out of your heart. I tapped into a love that I didn’t know I had and a compassion that I didn’t know I had. It’s a reward I wasn’t expecting to get.”
“Time and time again, if you sit down and have a chat with someone, they are so grateful at the end,” Baldomero added. “There’s this incredible bonding that happens. For some people, that might be their only conversation that day. They’re feeling very isolated in their situations.”
In order to respect guests’ privacy, The Temple News was not able to speak to guests while they were dining. But as she was leaving, one woman hugged Seibel and thanked him for the meal.
“My culinary background is a labor of love,” Seibel said. “I love to cook and I love that, but honestly if I wasn’t cooking, I would be doing something with [social services] anyway. It just makes sense.”
Breakfast is served Mondays at 8 a.m. Dinner is served Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. Lunch is served Thursday and Friday at 11:30 a.m. and Saturday at 11:45 a.m. Seibel said Thursday is their busiest day of the week.
Thanksgiving Brunch takes place at 9:45 a.m. Nov. 25.
Madeline Presland can be reached at email@example.com.