The Guild of St. Margaret is always open. The soup kitchen, an outreach program of Grace Church, Middletown, provides meals for the hungry 365 days a year in addition to meals for the homebound, referrals to emergency and social services, nutritional information, health workshops, emergency bus vouchers, and veteran’s affairs workshops. In the true spirit of hospitality, the Guild of St. Margaret is open to any in need without requiring qualification or documentation. Over 1,000 people are welcomed by the Guild of St. Margaret each year, and over 44,000 meals are served.
And every year on Christmas, the Guild of St. Margaret does even more.
“Our holiday coordinator and volunteers go above and beyond to make Christmas a special day filled with good food, gifts, and love for all of our guests,” said Phyllis Guardino, the program director of the Guild of St. Margaret.
In addition to the dinner, the Guild of St. Margaret fills the dining room with festive decorations. Santa and his elves show up to provide cheer, and carolers from the Middletown High School Choir sing from the stage.
“No matter their age, everyone is excited to see Santa and the elves who have gifts for all,” said Phyllis.
There is also a special surprise for the kids. Several tables are covered with brand new, unopened toys. The children get to pick toys based on their age plus a stuffed animal and coloring books. The toys are donated by individuals and groups throughout the Middletown area.
“You truly feel the spirit of Christmas when you see children who are so happy to be able to choose a toy or two to have for their very own,” said Cynthia Franthio, the Holiday Coordinator.
The Guild of St. Margaret Soup Kitchen serves a deep need for both food and a place of community within Middletown, where the population of those living in poverty or near poverty levels is higher than that of the surrounding county and New York state. Many of those served are experiencing unemployment or underemployment, and many also suffer mental health, physical, and addiction issues.
Gerald, who experienced homelessness, is a former client of the soup kitchen. He has since become employed as a dishwasher there and moved into his own apartment. But more than the job and the apartment, what’s been most important to Gerald is how the Guild of St. Margaret has helped him connect with other people.
Because of the Guild of St. Margaret, Gerald says, “I learned how to talk to people and how to be nice to them, and to know that they could be nice to me…I come here to work and help people and it feels good.”