On Thanksgiving and all year long, All Saints Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry feeds low-income families in a crumbling building
DETROIT — As volunteer Ann Marie Stevens serves soup to clients at All Saints Soup Kitchen in southwest Detroit, the building rattles from nearby construction on the Gordie Howe International Bridge. The vibrations from the multi-year project are taking a toll on the already-deteriorating building.
As volunteers served up a hot Thanksgiving meal to those in need in Detroit's Springwells and Delray neighborhoods, David Allen, program manager for All Saints Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry, a ministry of Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, listens to the creaks and groans with concern.
Allen hopes next Thanksgiving will be different.
The outreach program is looking for a new home, and Catholic Charities needs to find one soon to continue serving the low-income and homeless population in this part of the city.
“It’s too expensive to stay here,” Allen told Detroit Catholic of the basement of the now-closed All Saints Church, which merged in 2017 with nearby St. Gabriel Parish. “It’s an old building with rising costs, plus health and safety concerns. We should have relocated a year ago, but haven’t found the right place.”
A new location will have to be convenient for current clients served by All Saints. As bridges are removed from the area to make way for the new international span, access to All Saints is impeded for the population it serves, especially those on foot and bikes.
“All of us volunteers are worried about finding a new place,” Stevens said. “The building is falling apart.”
All Saints Soup Kitchen began more than 20 years ago as a parish-based ministry, serving one meal per month. The kitchen now serves 75 meals each day, three days a week, while a food pantry provides non-perishable food, meat and fresh produce to 100 households twice a week.
In July 2014, Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan assumed responsibility for both operations. On Dec. 31, 2017, All Saints Parish closed, while the soup kitchen and food pantry remained.
Stevens, a parishioner at St. Constance Parish in Taylor, began volunteering for the soup kitchen after she retired a decade ago. She picks up one of the other volunteers each Monday and opens the building to begin preparations for their clients. She’s become such a fixture at the Monday lunches that the guests call her “mom” or “mama.”
Stevens sets up the dining room each week while others are in the kitchen cooking. Meals are always prepared fresh. Stevens also organizes the “religion table” with donated books, pamphlets, Bibles and rosaries. It’s a popular spot, with almost everyone stopping by to choose a rosary or look through the books.
St. Paul Street Evangelization volunteers visit All Saints twice a month to talk and pray with guests. The first time they came, upon Allen’s invitation, people lined up to talk with them.
“There’s a hunger deeper than food. There’s a hunger for God,” Allen said. “Christ is the central figure in the work we do here.”
Volunteers at All Saints often make a personal connection with the men, women and children who come for a meal. Each week, Stevens brings clothing and socks that have been given to her. One volunteer brings stuffed animals for the children who are coming for a meal with their parent or guardian. When Stevens meets new guests at a Monday lunch, she writes down their names to remember them the next time she sees them.
“They need someone to talk to, so once everything is set, I’ll sit down with my coffee and talk,” Stevens said. “I consider that part of volunteering here, especially as a Catholic.”
Allen is the only paid employee. The rest are volunteers. “Can you say, ‘Mystical body of Christ?’” Allen said. “We wouldn’t be here without volunteers.”
Ann Debien volunteers in the food pantry every Tuesday, distributing fresh fruit, vegetables and bread. Debien, a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, grew up in Detroit and enjoys giving back to the Detroit community. She sees the need for a new facility every time she’s there.
“This place has so many steps that it’s not good for people which physical limitations who are here to get the food they need,” Debien said. “And in the summer, it gets so hot inside. It would be a relief for the people coming through to have air conditioning.”
Food for the food pantry is donated by Gleaners, Forgotten Harvest, and food drives at local churches.
“I think volunteering here gives me a better perspective on what other people are going through,” Debien said. “They are generally happy, yet they have so little. They’ve taught me gratitude — they always say 'thank you' and are so appreciative.”
Sisters with the Missionaries of Charity, the religious congregation established by St. Teresa of Calcutta, assisted in preparing and serving the meal on Thanksgiving. Allen would like to see them again for Thanksgiving 2020, only in a new facility that better serves the needy of southwest Detroit.
“I know we’ll find a place in God’s time. It’s like the Isaiah verse that says, 'My ways are not your ways, Lord,'” Allen said.
Help All Saints Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry
To donate to All Saints Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry, go to www.ccsem.org/donate and select All Saints in the drop-down menu for a specific fund.