Approximately 200 people attended the annual "Soul Feast" celebration held by the Coatesville Soup Kitchen to commemorate Martin Luther King Day. The gathering was held at the soup kitchen's base at the Hutchinson Memorial AME Church and this celebration of Dr. King's life marked his 77th birthday.
"Dr. King stressed on equality for all people regardless of race, caste or creed. We want to incorporate his great vision of equality and provide service to all at the soup kitchen," said Eunice Donald Harris, wife of Pastor Donald Harris. She compared Dr. King to Moses, adding that like Moses, Dr. King was anointed to bring one people onto liberty. He brought one nation together for civil rights.
Pastor Donald Harris reiterated that Dr. King was a leader for all people.
Chester County Commissioner Andrew Dinniman felt that the soup kitchen was acting out Dr. King's dream of serving the people. He was deeply influenced by Dr. King whom he credited with "getting me to understand the racial and economic inequities in our society."
Dinniman pointed out the irony that Chester County was one of the 10 richest counties in the nation, yet over 36,000 people in the county need food assistance and 45,000 people have no access to medical insurance. He further said that the solution to this problem and of helping people in this county were twofold, the government needed to give more in terms of aid and people in the county needed to give generously off their time, effort and contributions.
Dinniman paid tribute to Linda Wilson, the original founder of the kitchen who died a couple of years ago. He presented a citation on behalf of the county commending and acknowledging the services of the soup kitchen and that of Hutchinson Memorial Church. He added that he comes to the soup kitchen about 10 times a year "to support Rudy's marvelous efforts."
Dinniman's concern for the hungry in Chester County resulted in the creation of the Chester County Gleaning Program, which picks up excess produce from farms across the county for distribution to various feeding agencies.
Kareem Johnson, who was recently elected president of Coatesville City Council, also came to show his support. "Hutchinson Memorial is my home church and I have been involved with the soup kitchen for over one year", said Johnson.
The crowd rose and sang "Lift every Voice and Sing" by James Weldon Johnson, a song that is considered to be the black national anthem.
"Everyone can be a hero because everyone can serve" was a quote of Dr. King's that was read by Rudy Mayo, nephew of founder Linda Wilson. Mayo presently runs the kitchen and he felt that this quote was applicable to everyone but especially to the youth of Coatesville. He added that no matter how deep their level of commitment everyone could help their fellow beings and be heroes.
Mayo explained that the soup kitchen had expanded in many ways since its inception 12 years ago. There was more diversity, more volunteers and more support from the church and from the community.
Florence Taltoan is a regular visitor and said that she enjoyed coming to the kitchen because she could eat together with others and that it was infinitely better than sitting alone in her apartment. Many seniors at the gathering voiced similar sentiments.
Another visitor, Deidre Myers, had her wedding at the church hall and said that she knew most of the people there. Her sister Lisa Beatles said that they had lived in Coatesville all their lives and that a neighbor of their mother's had told them about the soup kitchen.
St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church in Uwchlan Township donated toiletries and t-shirts. The children from the church helped to serve the meal. Maureen Tedesco, their high school youth minister, said that the purpose of volunteering with the youth was so that the kids who led comfortable lives could experience and see for themselves and help out.
Stardetta Halton has been volunteering for the past six months. She greets people, serves, cleans up, washes dishes, makes sure that people are comfortable and makes them feel at home.
Another volunteer Pamela Depte came in place of her mother Dorothy Jones. She felt proud of "the strong village" they had in Coatesville.