Twenty-five years ago, three sisters, Theodora, Erlinda, and Suzie embarked on a pilgrimage to Medjugorie. Their journey completely changed the direction of their lives were headed. They knew that they had a new calling that shaped the life goals they once hoped to achieve.
Being already involved in the local pilgrimage the sisters and their friend decided to invest in a more global experience. During a ten day trip they were able to visit Rome and Yugoslavia. Their adventure truly began when meeting up with another church group and garnished an invitation to meet the Pope. Their trip continued being a blessing in Yugoslavia when a feeling of peace washed over them and they knew that our Blessed Mother and our Lord had a plan for them.
During their trip and the spiritual gifts that the sisters had received changed the direction their lives forever. Before the trip the sisters had a catering service but upon their return they were compelled to research the possibilities of helping those in need.
Throughout their research into local opportunities the sisters had the good fortune to be able to learn first-hand what services to their community could take and the challenges that they would be up against. No one organization seemed to be able to gain traction because the community seemed to be afraid of what consequences might come from opening the invitation to those in need. But the sisters knew early on that they wanted to help others and they were going to do it right.
Ultimately the sisters were able to visit St. John’s Church’s Soup Kitchen in Santa Fe to gather ideas, advice and templates. Most useful was the knowledge about the Good Samaritan Legislation that would protect them from what many other organizations feared, the liability.
Once the sisters decided to pursue opening a soup kitchen and they partnered with the Ministerial Alliance to get approval. There was no place to gather on a regular basis but they were able to feed people in recreational halls three days a week. The food came solely from donations.
Finally, thanks to some very special people and a lot of hard work the San Marin de Porres Soup Kitchen opened its doors at the MG Hall in Ranchitos. Tragically, only 16 months later a robbery covered up by a fire took down the whole building and all of the hard work went with it.
Just two weeks later, with the help from the City Fathers and the Director of HUD the Soup Kitchen found a home at the Senior Center of Apple Valley. The facility is loaned rent and utility free by the Espanola Housing Authority. They believe they are right where they are supposed to be. This location is right in the middle of all the people that need a soup kitchen the most.
Their regulars come from the low income communities and the location is close to the hospital so those families can be helped too. Everyone is always very grateful and some have offered services like washing dishes or other skills. Those helped are always good for a story as well. The Soup Kitchen has also become a place to be social and get out of the house and away from life’s realities.
While the San Martin de Porres Soup Kitchen might have begun as a small community outreach effort it has now developed into a fully functioning operation. This is in large part to the volunteers and donations rising to the ever growing needs of the community. The Soup Kitchen is now open five days a week, and is operated 100% by volunteers.
Starting out with only handful of volunteers the kitchen now has over 130 active volunteers and are continuously training and recruiting more. Between fundraisers like the Annual Chile Bowl Contest and other donations the Soup Kitchen is able to meet the growing need of the community and keep their doors open.
The San Martin de Porres Soup Kitchen was formed in July 1992 to help feed the poor and hungry and will not refuse anyone regardless of race, color or creed.
With the help of countless volunteers and the generosity of donors and supporters, three sisters continue to strive to provide hot meals and food boxes to the ever growing population of the poor and hungry in their community.
United Way of Northern New Mexico has supported San Martin de Porres Soup Kitchen for many of their years in operation. For more information about San Martin de Porres Soup Kitchen visit their website www.smdpsoupkitchen.com
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