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Volunteers Needed

Kids 12 and up can help at Detroit's Capuchin Soup Kitchen

 By Andrew Prina

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Brother Vincent Reyes, O.F.M., instructs a volunteer on carving a turkey during a Feed the Children event at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit, Michigan, in 2004. (Photo courtesy Capuchin Soup Kitchen)
Brother Vincent Reyes, O.F.M., instructs a volunteer on carving a turkey during a Feed the Children event at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit, Michigan, in 2004. (Photo courtesy Capuchin Soup Kitchen)

The season of giving is here, but so is one of the worst economic downturns in our nation's history.  How is the current economic crisis affecting the demand for services to the needy? And how has it affected the donations that keep those services coming? I recently visited the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit, Michigan, to find out.

Capuchin looks like a typical industrial kitchen, with huge chrome appliances and a serving area much like a school cafeteria's. About 2,000 people line up daily for breakfast and lunch, and that number is expected to increase, says Rev. Jerry Smith, the kitchen's executive director. Capuchin has served 10,000 more meals this year than it did last year, about a 20 percent increase.

The organization has one main goal, Smith says: to help the homeless and needy in Detroit, one person at a time.

The soup kitchen also provides 200 emergency food packages a day, which include 60 pounds of food and 10 pounds of meat.  The organization provides children's services, furniture donations, and substance-abuse treatment. The Detroit kitchen employs 70 full-time staff and 20 more full-time volunteers. However, that is not enough.

"We always need people to volunteer," says Rev. Smith. "We have a variety of things for people to do."

Kids can help too. Rev. Smith suggested starting a bottle or can drive to raise money. Kids 12 and older can come in and help prepare and serve meals.

The holiday-season battle is only beginning.  The kitchen gets half its income during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, and with the harsh Michigan weather, there'll be more people in need than ever.

To find out how you can help, go to the Capuchin Web site, or find a food bank or soup kitchen in your own community.

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