The Sister Mary Loretto Memorial Community Soup Kitchen has been feeding people in need in Lockport for more than 35 years now.

The late Sister Mary Loretto and Jo Roberts, the former director of the Grace Episcopal Food Pantry, planted the seeds for development of the soup kitchen when they started serving meals for people living in one-room apartments with no cooking facilities. Originally located inside German Lutheran Church, the meal service gradually expanded into a soup kitchen catering to, as Loretto described it all those years ago, the “hungry, lonely, depressed and those one-room dwellers.”

Amid conflicts between soup kitchen operations and church functions, Loretto and Roberts put out a public call in the Union-Sun & Journal, asking for the community’s help to find alternative accommodations. The local Veterans of Foreign Wars post responded, offering the soup kitchen a new home that catered to seven clients on its first day in September 1983.

Since 1985, the soup kitchen has been housed inside the Salvation Army citadel on Cottage Street.

Fast forward three decades and the cost of keeping the kitchen open and serving hot, balanced meals five days a week, 52 weeks a year, is roughly $150,000.

According to Salvation Army Major Jose Santiago, the soup kitchen today is serving far more working-poor Lockportians than one-room dwellers who spurred a nun’s mission of mercy. The gritty reality for many soup kitchen “customers” in 2019 is they struggle to make ends meet despite having one or more jobs.

“You see where the economy has done better (but) for most of our people up here it is not their case. They are still living check-by-check,” Santiago observed. “It’s no longer that these people are lazy, these people are dependent on the government. ... People with a high school diploma today or less, they are very gifted and talented in some particular area (but) the job that they are able to acquire  ... when they have to pay car insurance, phone bills, medicine, put food on the table, plus all the challenges of life, their money is not enough.”

Giving Tuesday, the national campaign that encourages people to support worthwhile community groups, non-profits and any organization dedicating to improving the lives of others, is upon us this week — and it seems the perfect time to remind you, the US&J’s readers, of the importance of the Sister Mary Loretta Memorial Community Soup Kitchen.

Donating is easy. Simply clip the coupon that’s printed daily in this newspaper, fill it out and either drop off or mail your donation to: The Salvation Army, 50 Cottage St., Lockport, NY 14094.

Please join us in supporting this vitally important community institution this giving season.

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