Soup kitchen is forced to cut back Clients double in a year, depleting the charity's budget.


The daily soup kitchen operated by the Midtown Churches Community Association will close its doors for most of July and can afford to operate only five days a week after it reopens, its director has announced.

The temporary closing is expected to force the kitchen's clients to other meal programs, already struggling with their own staggering increases in clients.

Esther Reaves, executive director for the non-profit agency in the 400 block of E. 25th St., said yesterday the number of people it feeds has doubled over the past year, pushing the cost of the program to $13,000 a month. About 180 people, most of them homeless, eat there daily.

"The numbers just keep going up and up," said Reaves. "It's really, really hard to do this. There's just no other way."

The cost of the soup kitchen is underwritten entirely through Midtown Churches' budget, although some food is provided through the federal government's surplus commodities program.

In its 18-year history, the kitchen has closed only once before, when it moved in 1989 from North Avenue to its current site. It will be closed July 1-25, then reopen on a Thursday-through-Monday schedule, serving from 8:30 to 10 a.m.

To prepare their clients for the temporary closing, Midtown Churches workers have posted signs and told them of their plans. Workers also have notified other soup kitchens to prepare for yet another increase in clients.

However, the Rev. Tom Boderenko, director of Our Daily Bread in the 200 block of W. Franklin St., sighed when he heard the news.

"We're seeing the same thing," he said. "In the summer of 1989 we saw 350 to 400 clients. We currently serve 550 to 700 a day -- 550 at the beginning of the month, 700 at the end. . . . "

While Our Daily Bread, which is open 365 days a year, may not immediately see a large increase as a result of Midtown Churches' temporary closing, it will be affected when the nearby Franciscan Center closes in August, as it does every summer, Boderenko said.

The Franciscan Center currently serves more than 500 people at its Monday-to-Friday hot lunch program. With seconds and thirds, the number of meals served in the 29-seat dining room often tops 800, cook Joe LaSpina said.

"Last year, if we hit 500, it would be the exception," he said.

The people who line up at the center on Maryland Avenue often are homeless. But clients also include people with small pensions and neighborhood families, LaSpina said. The program recently bought several booster seats for small children brought in by their mothers.

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