Pueblo Community Soup Kitchen, Inc., is a non-profit corporation operated for the express purpose of providing a noon meal to the indigent population of the Pueblo area.
Men, most of them young, who traveled the rails would stop at the Pueblo Railroad Depot and head straight to St. Anthony Church, then located at 225 Clark Street in Pueblo, to look for a sandwich or something to ease their hunger. With the mandate to live faith as an example to others, Sister Sara Mulligan, of the Sisters of Charity, had the idea to start a soup kitchen to provide that sandwich. With the blessing of the Reverend Bob Haberman, a kitchen was opened in the basement of St. Anthony Church, in The Grove, in November 1976. It was directed by Pat DeGrado, the first director of the now-established St. Anthony Soup Kitchen.
The first meal at the St. Anthony Soup Kitchen was served to three or so people right before Thanksgiving 1976. Those first meals consisted of soup and sandwiches. The dedicated volunteers, without whom this effort would have never succeeded, would either bring soup or the ingredients to make it. Within a year, the kitchen was serving 40 to 50 people a day and the menus grew to include dessert. Many a tasty homemade cake or pie was supplied by the volunteers. Within a few years, St. Anthony Church was closed, but the Soup Kitchen was allowed to continue operating out of the building's basement. Once the Soup Kitchen no longer operated under the sponsorship of St. Anthony Church, the Pueblo City Council determined that the kitchen needed a permit to continue operating from the old church basement and was given one year to find a new place. After running into opposition to any proposed locations, the city council granted an additional six months for the Soup Kitchen to find a new home. With the tenacious work of Zola Hunyada and numerous other volunteers, and the generous donation of a lot on Seventh and Greenwood, came a final solution and construction began on October 18, 1990. The last meal served in The Grove was December 3, 1990, after nearly 14 years of service there.
During the 13-month transition between the last meal served from the basement of St. Anthony Church until the doors opened at Seventh and Greenwood, the Soup Kitchen volunteers and clients were welcomed into the Sacred Heart Cathedral family by Reverend Richard Becker. On weekends when the church needed the kitchen/church hall itself, a "brown bag" lunch was served. Ever adaptable, everyone pitched in to make it work. The clients would help clean up and still do to this day.
A lot of the effort that brought this project to reality was through the tireless and persistent efforts of Zola Hunyada as she knocked on doors and called for help. Myrtle Huff, with her degree in kitchen design, drew up the floor plan. Her design for a public Soup Kitchen is what you see today.
Those who ran the Soup Kitchen decided in incorporate and achieve non-profit status. Part of that process was deciding on a name for a new corporation. The leaders wanted it to be inclusive and a community effort, open to all. Thus came the name, "Pueblo Community Soup Kitchen, Inc."
After years of serving the community's needy in makeshift and donated facilities, Pueblo Community Soup Kitchen, Inc., opened its own, brand-new building in February 1991.
Our primary focus is to ensure that everyone in our community is able to get a hot meal Monday through Saturday. Anyone who wants a meal is welcome to come in and have one. The need is determined by the individual, not by the Soup Kitchen. We ask no questions of anyone - they only need to be looking for a meal, which will be provided at no cost. The only requirement is that each person behaves in a quiet and respectful manner.
The clients of the Soup Kitchen are varied. They are young and old and in between; they are men, women, and children. Anywhere from 115-200 visit the kitchen Monday-Saturday, more toward the end of the month as people's funds run low. Some are regular clients, but many more simply take comfort from the meals as they pass through town or try to get back on their feet.
It is our commitment to the community to provide a noon meal for those in need. We have a great group of volunteers who come in daily to help support the Soup Kitchen and help individuals in need. The Board of Directors appreciate everything the community has done for the Pueblo Community Soup Kitchen in both donations and volunteers.
"A patron who was coming in to the Kitchen to eat everyday during the summer of 2014. He was working, in a dress shirt and tie and would arrive just a bit after noon. I asked him about it and he related that he had just gone through a divorce. He said that he had a house payment, rent on his apartment, two car payments, child support, medications, etc. He said he just couldn't make ends meet. He said that without the meals provided by the Kitchen, he would not get a hot meal and would be living off of Ramen noodles.
It kind of made an impression on me that is is not just the homeless and transient population that we serve, but others who are just having a hard stretch of time in their lives." ~ James Concialdi
The Soup Kitchen has seen an increase of persons served since the closure of the Salvation Army's shelter and the Pueblo Rescue Mission (which provided evening meals and housing). The number of women, children and families especially is on the rise. Number of lunches served seldom is less than 100 per day and is generally around 130 to 160 meals served towards the end of every month. We still strive to serve a hot and balanced noon meal (as well as a continental breakfast) each day we are open. Although we do not receive any governmental funding; monetary donations have been steady and food donations from retail grocery stores, donut shops and local farmers have been able to sustain us. We will continue to the best job possible in serving the hungry and needy in the Pueblo County area. - James Concialdi