JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) — The Jamestown community came together once again to raise money and donations for the area’s only soup kitchen: the St. Susan’s Center.
Known as the “Holiday Haul”, Keith Martin and local basketball coach Dan Keefe, are among those behind the annual charitable effort, now a decade in the making.
“I was looking for a way to get my basketball team involved in community service. People always ask, how’s the team look this year? And my response has been, ask me in 20 years because we want to develop people, not just players to win games but people that are gonna help out and do stuff like this in their community and carry on or start their own,” explains Keefe.
Since day one, donations were easy to find.
“We were hoping for a couple thousand dollars, a couple thousand pounds, and the first year we ended up with 3 and a half tons and nine thousand dollars,” says Martin.
Since then, each year the drive has grown. This year, donations yielded over nine tons of food for the St. Susan’s Center.
“I think that the community realizes and feels the pinch at home about putting food on their own table but realize that they’re blessed to be able to put food on the table. And I don’t think that the years we’ve been doing this, that there’s actually been a greater need than this year based on just the expenses alone that St. Susan’s has taken on just because of inflation alone. Not even mentioning the demand and the number of people that have increased,” explains Keefe.
The record haul will keep the soup kitchen going through March or April.
“We’re only out there a couple of hours, these couple days of the year. But St. Susan’s work is 365 days a year and the people that work at St. Susan’s, and what they do and what they give people is so special and they do it day in and day out,” emphasizes Martin.
For Executive Director of St. Susan’s Center, Cherie Rowland, the donations could not have come at a better time.
“We’re seeing, on average, 120 folks a day. And we’ve seen as high as 200 in a day, and we’ve seen here in the last couple of days around 150 to 160. So every couple of days we get a little higher in the number of people that we’re serving,” says Rowland.
Now that the Holiday Haul is over, members of St. Susan’s will have their work cut out for them organizing.
“I would say there’s gonna be about 2 ½ weeks of sorting and then we will get it all put back into our pantry. And we will be serving our folks that come in up until, I think, with as much food as we collected, I’m willing to bet that we’ll be good until April,” says Rowland.
Not only does the center provide warm meals for those in need, they also emphasize becoming a healthy community by bringing people together.