JACKSON – When township resident Helen Ludowig started the Bread From Heaven Café soup kitchen, she wasn’t aware of the extent of the need in the township and surrounding areas.
Ludowig, who serves as the group’s executive director, said she first had the idea of creating a soup kitchen more than a decade ago. A “little voice in her head” told her to move forward with the idea but it took some time. Two years ago that “little voice” got louder and she made the idea a reality.
“Since this was started early last year, it has grown,” Ludowig said.
Residents Tony Manigeri, and his wife Toni, are regular volunteers at the soup kitchen.
“It makes you feel good to do something to help others,” Tony Manigeri said. “We started with 10 guests and that it is now up to much more.”
Ludowig gave a more specific number of those who utilize the program. “We serve about 1,000 people a week,” Ludowig said.
Bread From Heaven Cafe, Inc. is a non-profit organization aimed at “making our world a better place by helping feed individuals and families who may be hungry, but have no means of satisfying that hunger,” Ludowig said.
Around Thanksgiving, the need for food is felt even more than usual.
“We work with a lot of organizations in the township and beyond,” Ludowig said. “The Jackson Elks provided food baskets this week that they assembled on Sunday (Nov. 19) and we provided them the addresses of those in need. It is truly becoming a community effort with a lot of cooperation.”
Ludowig described the mission of her organization saying its aim was to “establish a safe haven where everyone is welcome to come in for a hot meal and a food pantry so families can benefit from taking food home.”
“Our vision is to provide an opportunity for everyone to make this world better by demonstrating to future generations what matters the most,” Ludowig said. “Our value is to extend a helping hand without criticism; to help turn situations around for anyone.”
The group’s facility is located at the Columbian Room Hall of the Jackson Knights of Columbus headquarters at 401 Bartley Road. Meals are served every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. “Tuesdays we are packed to the brim,” Ludowig said.
Rev. John Bambrick of Saint Aloysius Church said the local Knights of Columbus “stepped up to the plate and allowed us to use their building as we needed a commercial kitchen which they were able to provide to us. That has been a real blessing to us.”
Bambrick added that “Jackson is a diverse population but there are pockets of poverty.”
Ludowig added that the soup kitchen helps people beyond its Tuesday program. “We go to trailer parks and bring food to homes of those that can’t come out. I didn’t realize there was so big a need. We received a donated van but the starter went on it and I’ve been using my car to bring food to people.”
“In order to do this we need help from the community to help us grow and to support this important work,” Ludowig said.
“We appreciate the grants we recently received from Wells Fargo Bank, the OceanFirst Foundation, the Diocese of Trenton and Stop n’ Shop,” Ludowig added. The organization also received support from Jackson Daisy Troop 284 who baked and delivered cookies for the program during its first year of operation.
“Costco and Olive Garden have helped us and we’ve received help from people who volunteer at a soup kitchen in Freehold. We are very grateful to everyone who assists us. This is a community team effort,” Ludowig stressed.
Those wishing to support Bread From Heaven Cafe can visit breadfromheavencafe.org to donate.