PEORIA, Ill. — When people come for food at Sophia’s Kitchen, there are no questions asked, no papers to fill out.

Volunteers try to provide customers with a side order of dignity along with the sandwich of the day, said director Clair Crone.

That may be one of the reasons that 80 percent of those customers indicated they were extremely or very satisfied with the amount, quality and variety of food provided at Sophia’s, according to a recent survey made public August 10.

Under the direction of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, Sophia’s Kitchen serves an average of 350 people a day, said Crone, adding that the number of the kitchen’s customers rises in the summer.

“We served 660 people one day several weeks ago,” she said, referring to an appearance by the Little Caesar’s Love Kitchen truck, one of two traveling pizza stores that tours the country serving the needy.

Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, Sophia’s has been doling out meals at the Pryor Place location since 2010. Before that it was located at Sacred Heart Church in Downtown Peoria, said Crone, noting that the organization’s name derives from Sophia Donald, a 3-year-old killed in an auto accident in 2005.

“The Donald family wanted to do something in recognition of their daughter. They make a donation every year,” she said.

“We serve whatever God gives us,” said Crone, identifying principal food sources as the Heart of Illinois Harvest, Peoria Area Food Bank and Midwest Food Bank. Right now, the kitchen has an abundance of fruits and vegetables available. “What we don’t use in the kitchen, we put out for people to take,” said Crone.

While menus may vary, the two constants are hungry people and willing volunteers, she said. “We run two shifts of volunteers a day — morning and afternoon,” said Crone, identifying 110 people who regularly give of their time to help prepare and serve food at the kitchen.

Both high school and grade school students also help out through the school year, she said.

Paul Buck, a volunteer for the kitchen, outlined details of the survey he helped produced for the organization. “Fifty-seven percent of our patrons are under 50, while 28 percent are in their 50s and 14 percent are 60 or older,” he said.

“Twenty-seven percent of our patrons visit us five times per week with 23 percent coming three times per week. Twenty-five percent of our patrons are employed while 37 percent are unemployed and looking for work with 26 percent on disability or in poor health,” said Buck, adding that the group plans to employ grant writing to improve fundraising efforts in the future.

Peggy Jacques, a faith community nurse for OSF Healthcare, said that, despite the problems many of the patrons are facing, “the concept of resilience is very good here.” She emphasized the importance of spiritual guidance. “Respect is as important as the food we give them,” she said.


Source: (Peoria) Journal Star, http://bit.ly/2fA9bc6


Information from: Journal Star, http://pjstar.com

This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by the (Peoria) Journal Star.

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STEVE TARTER
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