EXETER — In celebration of the 35th anniversary of the St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen, over 100 people gathered at the Fox Hill Country Club on Saturday night to honor those who had made the venture such a success.
The event, entitled “One Hundred Thousand Meals,” referenced the number of meals served to the needy each year at the soup kitchen on East Jackson Street in Wilkes-Barre.
Attorney Carl Frank and Monsignor Donald McAndrews were honored for helping ensure the soup kitchen continues to serve those in need.
“It’s wonderful to be able to take a moment and honor both men who made the long-term success of the kitchen possible,” said St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen Advisory Board President Dr. David Shemo.
Shemo lauded Frank’s work as a board member, including serving as its past president.
“Carl has always been there to help the kitchen with its mission of feeding the hungry,” he said. “His energy and determination has truly made a difference not only for the organization, but for the whole area.”
Mary Theresa Malandro, CEO of Catholic Social Services, spoke passionately about Msgr. McAndrews’ commitment to the community and foresight in starting the kitchen.
Malandro credited McAndrews with being a man of great faith, and she said he had to rely on that faith in the kitchen’s early days.
“Shortly after the establishment of the kitchen, Monsignor’s fear was that there wouldn’t be enough volunteers to prepare the daily meals,” she said. “Much to his delight, there were hundreds of volunteers willing to give of their time and energy to help the hungry.”
Malandro said in addition to the meals, the kitchen also offers food and clothing pantries.
“We couldn’t do it without donations and volunteers,” she noted. “We very much rely on the help of members of the community.”
‘Makes a difference’
Dianne Colleran is one of those volunteers who tirelessly gives of her time and energy.
Colleran, who oversees the holiday toy giveaway, had a heart attack last September.
By November, she was back taking toy requests and overseeing other volunteers in their Christmas endeavors.
“No one else really knows what to do,” she said. “So, I went back to get things ready for the children. My doctor said not to lift anything and I didn’t. I still don’t.”
Colleran’s husband Frank, who died in 2015, shared her passion for helping those in need.
“When we first got married, other people helped us,” she said. “And I think that we remembered that and always wanted to give back.”
Colleran said the entire effort is very fulfilling, but there are some people who especially inspire her.
“One year, I helped a pregnant woman who had a small child. Her husband had left her and she had nothing,” she recalled. “I helped her get what she needed.”
Several years later during the holidays, Colleran looked up and the woman was standing in front of her, very well-dressed, and with two beautiful children.
“She said, ‘Do you remember me? It’s Kelly,’” said Colleran. “And I said, ‘Of course I remember you.’”
The woman calls back every Christmas season, asks if anything is needed and makes a monetary donation.
“What we do at the soup kitchen makes a difference,” said Colleran. “We help people at what might be the most neediest times in their lives.”