By KAITLYN NAPLES
The second week of April is designated National Volunteer Week, and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Meals For The Needy Director Cheryl Yetke took full advantage to celebrate and honor the individuals who dedicate their time and energy for one of the oldest meal programs in Bristol.
“We have 27 groups who cook and serve meals each month,” in the soup kitchen that runs Monday through Thursdays, Yetke said.
On average, the soup kitchen serves 55 to 120 meals each night, and Plainville resident and volunteer Joanne Chadziewicz said she has seen an increase in need since she started volunteering about eight years ago.
“We are so fortunate and blessed that we are on the right side of the counter,” said Chadziewicz, who volunteers with her husband John.
Yetke held a volunteer luncheon at Nuchie’s Restaurant last Friday for the volunteers who donate their time at the soup kitchen and food pantry each month.
“We just appreciate so much the work these volunteers do each month,” Yetke said, adding that she became director of the program last October, and former director Shirley Dickau retired recently.
Bristol resident Sue Clavette said she has also been volunteering for about eight or nine years, and said she remembers when her father worked in a grocery store years ago and would donate leftover products to an orphanage in New Britain.
“He’s put me in that direction,” of giving back, Clavette said, adding that she wants to “pay it forward,” especially because she feels blessed for all that she has.
Ann Murphy of Bristol also volunteers and said “anyone could end up in that line,” for food, so she volunteers so she can help out others in need.
Bristol resident Loretta Teevan said she enjoys volunteering with the Meals for the Needy program and the other individuals who help serve meals.
“The people are very appreciative,” Teevan said, adding she is seeing more families who are in need.
Bristol resident Marilyn Dormody agreed, and added there are new faces who are in line for food, and younger people as well.
“There is definitely a need for it,” Dormody said about the soup kitchen and food pantry.
In Yetke’s annual report of the Meals for the Needy Program, she said that in October last year the Rotary Club and Liberty Bank partnered with the meals program and the bank matched 25 percent of the funds raised between Oct. 16 and Nov. 22. In November, the Rotary Club and Liberty Bank presented the meals program with a $13,223 check. For Thanksgiving, the program assisted about 300 families with turkeys and all of the fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner. Also this year Best Cleaners donated 670 coats to the program, and there were so many that Yetke said some were donated to the other organizations in Bristol, like Bristol Community Organization, Christian Fellowship Center and more. Between Dec. 16 and Jan. 16 Meals for the Needy gave out 328 bags of groceries and helped over 80 families, and served 1,092 meals which included 250 meals for Christmas dinner.
In the annual report, Yetke stated the program needs to raise funds for a new furnace and new chairs for the soup kitchen.
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church is located at 27 Judd St., Bristol and can be reached at (860)589-7744.
By KAITLYN NAPLES