In late 1970s, moved by the overwhelming and urgent needs of the hungry poor, Msgr. Constantine Siconolfi, together with members of many faith traditions, formed a community partnership with a simple, yet profound mission … to feed the hungry.

Now, more than 40 years later, this remains the central element of our mission and purpose. Staff and volunteers at Saint Francis Kitchen strive to be of assistance to others and serve with a spirit of compassion, respect and dignity.

During the last few months, the Saint Francis Kitchen staff, along with many volunteers, prepared and distributed just over 20,000 hot nutritious meals. These restaurant-quality, seven- to eight-course meals include bread, fresh green salad, fresh fruit salad, a starch, a protein, a vegetable, dessert, and in colder months, hot soup.

Those in need may receive a meal at Saint Francis Kitchen located at 500 Penn Ave. in Scranton seven days a week, including weekends and holidays from 11 a.m. until noon. We also serve an evening meal from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Of particular interest to those in the Midvalley and Upvalley communities is a program titled, The Mid Valley Outreach Program. This is a collaborative effort involving St. Francis, the local Catholic parishes, the Lackawanna Heritage Apartments and the Carbondale Housing Authority. Each week, on Wednesdays, the above described meal is provided to the residents of the Heritage Apartments in Olyphant beginning at 11:30 a.m. and to the public at Holy Cross Parish, 200 Delaware Ave., Olyphant beginning at noon.

Every Thursday, meals are distributed to the public at Saint Rose Church, 6 N. Church Street, Carbondale beginning at noon. Meals are also provided to the residents of Ben Franklin Apartments and North and South High Rises in Carbondale during the same time.

One of the best aspects of the Mid Valley Outreach Program is that it involves local people serving local people. While Saint Francis provides the food and the staff necessary to prepare and deliver it, this program simply could not exist without local partners. Typically, eight to 10 volunteers are needed each week to transfer the bulk food that is prepared and sent by the kitchen into individuals servings. These volunteers also help to distribute the food to those in need and clean the work space after the food has been distributed.

Another important iteration of our mission is providing groceries and clothing to our brothers and sisters in need at the Saint Francis Free Clothing Store and the Saint Francis Client Choice Food Pantry, both located at 504 Penn Ave. in Scranton. Those wishing to receive or donate food or clothing may visit Monday, Tuesday and Thursday during the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Additionally, the food pantry is also open on Fridays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Other arrangements can be made for those wishing to donate items if needed.

Frequently, people who visit our kitchen, pantries and satellite locations express to me how grateful they are to receive hot meals, groceries and clothing from our outreach programs and how they receive so much more than food and clothing when they are with us.

With some regularity, staff and volunteers express how privileged they feel to be involved in the mission of feeding and clothing the poor and hungry among us. Our patrons and volunteers tell me that they experience a deep and genuine sense of community and connectedness while with us.

The holidays provide us with a wonderful opportunity to recall and reflect on the many blessings that we receive each day. At Saint Francis in Scranton, I have the good fortune to spend time daily with people in need. Thankfully, every now and then, someone writes these thoughts and feelings down and gives it to me. This happened recently, so I thought I would share it with you:

“They prepare hot meals for us every day. Snacks, drinks, water soda provided by the grocery stores and donors that donate food/meals to help with what is already being prepared for us. When I say us, I mean the less fortunate; those of us who may have a roof over our head, and pay the rent and utilities, but have no money left for food. Us meaning those who are homeless for several reasons. No income or not enough income to have a place. Living under bridges, in tents. Recovering addicts and alcoholics. Some are hiding from abuse. Some are addicts — alcohol dependent, drug dependent. Some have social deficiencies such as autism, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder. Us being different shapes, heights, sizes, skin color, hair color and style, some with no hair. Some are clean, some are a little dirty, some are more than a little dirty — no judgement. Some are veterans.

We come here and you are praying over the food with us and for our health and safety. They still never forget us. They provide us with essentials: toiletries, water, food. Blankets, winter hats, gloves, socks, scarfs, sweaters, coats, hand warmers in the winter. On Christmas, they provide a wrapped gift, so sweet to think of us. Clearly some/most of us don’t get gifts at all.

The staff and volunteers are so compassionate, giving and non-judgmental.”

As I think about how thankful I am to be a liaison between those who help us serve and those we serve, I have arrived at a deeper understanding of the dynamics at play. While reading this heartfelt message from a beautiful woman whom I have the pleasure to greet several times a week, it occurred to me that perhaps she and I misspoke. Perhaps my perspective and hers should not be us and them but we. “We” are all part of one human family. This fact connects all of us in real and meaningful ways.

To learn more about the services of Saint Francis Kitchen and how to get involved, either in Scranton or the Midvalley and Upvalley, please visit our website, www.stfranciskitchen.org, see us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stfranciskitchen, or call 570-342-5556. Or you can contact Holy Cross Catholic Church in Olyphant or Saint Rose Catholic Church in Carbondale.

Rob Williams has served as the executive director of Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen since August 2019. He has been charged with managing the day to day operations of the kitchen as well as community engagement.