February 11, 2018
WHEELING — It is particularly difficult following the Christmas season for two Wheeling charitable agencies to assist individuals or families in need of hot meals, groceries, clothing or other valuable resources. Typically, donations and volunteers drop off after the holiday season.
The Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling and Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center both experience decreases in donations this time of year.
Soup Kitchen Executive Director Becky Shilling-Rodocker said this can be a particularly tough time of the year on several levels for the soup kitchen, which serves approximately 225 meals a day.
“Mostly our needs are financial always — that’s our number one need. That’s how we stay alive. We are 100 percent community funded. That’s why we need the financial support,” Shilling-Rodocker said. “At Christmas time it is awesome, but after Christmas it drops off significantly, as does volunteering. I always say we are community funded and volunteer based.”
Shilling-Rodocker is quick to point out that not only does the soup kitchen accept monetary donations year-round, they also accept food, groceries and coat donations. She said donated food can even be leftover “cooked” food from a large event such as a wedding or company picnic. She said because the soup kitchen is covered by the “Good Samaritan Act” they are able to accept large cooked food donations. “It’s our responsible to determine if the food is still servable. There is no liability with that,” she added.
“Not only is there a letdown of volunteers coming in and financial donations, we have to be really careful about the mood of our patrons. We try to be really upbeat. … It is very challenging in January to keep the mood of people that we serve up,” said Shilling-Rodocker.
She said it is important to keep in mind that once the holidays are over it can become cold and gloomy for many of their patrons throughout the remaining winter season. “So we have to stay up. We have to make different foods and try some different fun stuff,” she added.
In addition to the soup kitchen’s daily hot meal program, which serves breakfast and lunch daily, the agency also provides a children’s program from 4-6 p.m. every Wednesday called “Just for Kids,” and provides a medical clinic on Wednesdays in conjunction with the Wheeling Health Right. In addition, the agency provides clothes, coats and school supplies for children in need.
Catholic Charities Northern Regional Director Beth Collins said the Neighborhood Center, located on 18th Street in East Wheeling, mainly experiences a dropoff in food pantry donations and financial donations in the months following the Christmas season, particularly as it gets close to spring and summer. She said the pantry received enough donations during Christmas to sustain it for several months, but eventually the donations waver as the spring season approaches.
“We serve about 400 people a month with that food pantry,” Collins said. She said the agency serves breakfast and dinner daily and provides a lunch delivery program for shut-ins. Collins said while they currently seem to have a sufficient number of volunteers serving at the 18th Street building, there is always a need for volunteers driving the lunchtime meal routes for the agency. “That’s all volunteer based Monday through Saturday, delivering meals to shut-ins,” she added. She said they currently deliver 162 meals a day.
To contact the Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center call (304) 232-7157 or to contact The Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling call 304-233-2992.