Strike A Chord: A Look Inside NYC's Oldest, Largest Soup Kitchen

by Stephanie Kuo
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Stephanie Kuo, WFUV

WFUV's Strike a Chord campaign is focusing on soup kitchens and food pantries.

Every morning in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, more than 1,200 people from all walks of life lean up against the Holy Apostle's wrought-iron fence.

They wait for their first (and possibly last) meal of the day, a warm and safe environment for a moment of reprieve, and an inviting community of volunteers who are with them every step of the way -- from handing out juice to performing a soothing sonata on the piano. 

"It's one of those places that's best seen in action," said Reverend Glenn Chalmers. "There's a sense of community here that's hard to describe."

He said the Holy Apostles has never missed a single day of service -- not after Superstorm Sandy, not even after a fire that destroyed the church in 1990. How could it, he said, when still so many people relied on it? The soup kitchen opened in 1982 as a response to the de-institutionalization of food assistance during the Reagan administration. Chalmers said it was meant to be a temporary solution to a temporary problem.

"And here we are 30 years later," he said. "The lines don't grow shorter; they grow longer."

Charlise Harris joins those lines. She used to be a teacher, and has never been to a soup kitchen before. She says she's the face of hunger today. 

"Anyone can be homeless, anyone," she said. 

The dream at the Holy Apostles is for the soup kitchen to no longer be needed, but ask anyone there, and many will agree that day may never come. 

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