It started as an idea and a way to address what Sandra Nijjar saw as a growing problem in East Boston. Nijjar was seeing an ever-increasing number of homeless in and around Maverick and Central Squares. So three years ago, Nijjar recruited Pastor Britta Carlson, John Ribeiro, Jr., Lydia Edwards and Baljinder Nijjar to establish the neighborhood’s first-ever soup kitchen.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen (EBCSK) in the basement of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church on Paris Street was feeding hundreds of people a week that are both homeless or just in need of a hot meal.
However, like many organizations, the EBCSK had to shift gears and reinvent itself in this age of social distancing. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the EBCSK was forced to stop serving hot meals on Tuesdays from the basement of the Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. Instead, staff handed out grocery gift cards to residents and families in need.
This week marked the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen’s Fourth Anniversary and while the usual celebration and fundraising event has been scrapped due to the virus, the EBCSK volunteers are still going strong.
“Around this time last year we gathered at ZUMIX with our friends, supporters, and partners to celebrate our achievements and envision the year ahead of us,” said Sandra Nijjar. “Never could we have imagined how the year would unfold. It’s disappointing that we won’t be able to hold an event this year. One of the things we will miss most is honoring the people at the heart of our mission, those who make the soup kitchen a true community.”
While the EBCSK team can’t invite them onto an event stage this year their stories can still be shared.
“Hundreds of guests visit the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen every week,” said Nijjar. “Yes, they come for a hot meal and groceries but many guests are seeking much more than the soup.”
Nijjar said pervasive inequality and material hardship manifest in many forms.
“For some of our guests it results in homelessness and addiction,” she said. “Our friend Victor, for example, has sought our help in finding rehabilitation for chronic alcoholism. He trusts us at the Soup Kitchen to make a connection, without judgment. We celebrate his successes alongside him, and we share his fears that the despair of being discharged back to the streets will lead to relapse. East Boston does not have a day shelter–or an overnight shelter for adults without children. Geographically isolated, with unique demographics, people like Victor don’t have a neighborhood safety net. With your help, EBCSK can continue weekly services — distributing food, clothing, essentials, referrals for treatment programs and housing — and we can plan to build a more robust program that Victor and the larger East Boston community deserve.”
You can support EBCSK by donating at https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=s-xclick&hosted_button_id=6LTEFRHMRDNC4&source=url.