To those hungriest among us, weekends are tough. Public schools and charitable organizations provide meal plans and other resources Monday through Friday. Saturdays and Sundays can mean two days with nothing to eat.
Saturday’s Kitchen has been closing that gap for 10 years. “If they don’t get a meal there, they don’t eat,” says organizer Joan Bost. “If we don’t feed them, they’re going to be hungry all day.”
Joan Bost started working with local parishes to provide Saturday meals in 2007. Within a year, she was organizing meals for Saturdays and Sundays, each one feeding about 200 people. Church groups and other volunteers make part of the meals off site, and some is made at the Family Kitchen in Johnstown, where the food is distributed.
Joan sees all types of people come in, looking for help. Many of them are homeless. Families come in with small children. Some people are widowed or retired steel workers, getting as little as $30 a month from their pension. Some of them are couples who were doing well, then fell on hard times. Many of them come from the low income apartment towers in downtown Johnstown, and they’re not only hungry – they’re lonely. Saturday’s Kitchen feeds their need for companionship.
Joan even came across a client who had had once been a volunteer. The woman told her, “Last year I helped you. Now you’re helping me.”
That help extends to groceries and special meals around the holidays. All of it is in jeopardy. Saturday’s Kitchen is in desperate need of volunteers to set up before and clean up after meals. Without the extra hands, Saturday’s Kitchen may have to close.
“We could never do without volunteers,” says Joan. “They’re the ones who make all of this possible.”
Volunteers from the parishes tend to be elderly, and have trouble with the physical demands of feeding that many people. Joan is also somewhat selective about who is allowed to take part in the kitchen, which is often filled with young children and impressionable teenagers.
As far as Joan’s concerned, there’s a very clear reason to do it. “It’s God’s work. God put us on this earth to help one another. I have to laugh when people ask why God put me here. We’re here to help each other.”
Volunteers are needed for Saturdays and Sundays. There are two shifts: morning set-up starts at 8am; cleanup begins at 12:45pm. If you’re inspired to help, reach out directly to Joan Bost. Her number is (814) 536-3473.