Brother’s Keeper soup kitchen expects big numbers on holidays, needs volunteers

In this file photo, volunteers serve Thanksgiving dinners for homeless and needy people in the kitchen at Brother’s Keeper Soup Kitchen in Ocala on Nov. 26, 2020. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
The Brother’s Keeper Ministries soup kitchen strives to fill as many hungry bellies in Ocala as it can every holiday season, and this year is no exception.

Currently located within the Interfaith Emergency Services complex at 435 N.W. Second Street, the soup kitchen generally serves about 150 meals per day. That number doubles around the holidays.

“Last year at Thanksgiving, we [served] about 300 meals,” said Jason Halstead, executive director of Brother’s Keeper Catholic Outreach Ministry. “Two years ago, we served 550 meals on Thanksgiving Day. I’ve only been in this position for about four years, but I’m pretty confident that’s the most we’ve done on a single day.”

Halstead predicted that this year’s holiday season will bring out numbers closer to last year’s total—or around 300 meals.

“On Thanksgiving and Christmas, specifically, we will have an actual meal,” he continued. “We will have turkey with the additional sides like cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, a roll and some dessert. And then at Christmas, we will do a ham with sides.”

Brother’s Keeper Ministries, which serves hundreds of men, women and children in the Ocala/Marion County area with food and clothing, is run by Blessed Trinity Parish in Ocala. For the last 25 years, the soup kitchen has served lunch to the needy every day of the year between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m.

The mission is simple, according to Halstead. The soup kitchen exists to make sure food is available to the people who need it the most.

“Prior to COVID, it was a traditional soup kitchen,” explained Halstead, “where we would make a pot of soup or goulash, spaghetti with meatballs or casserole, and anybody who wanted to come could come in and eat as much as they wanted.”

Since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020, Halstead said the soup kitchen has been forced to transition to and maintain a to-go style menu, consisting mostly of sandwiches, fruit and water. He added that financially the change in model—from soup to bagged lunches—raised the price for running the kitchen threefold over the last 20 months.

“Making a big pot of soup versus bagging 300 sandwiches every day…the costs of water bottles, bread alone…it just costs more,” he said.

Halstead made a point to explain to the public that buying food for the ministry alone won’t go as far as a donation. And the ministry is always looking for people to volunteer and help in the soup kitchen.

“The soup kitchen is on a day-to-day basis. We have one of our nuns from Uganda who runs the soup kitchen, Sister Concepta, and then anywhere from four to eight volunteers per day. They prepare everything. But because of COVID, our core groups, who were primarily elderly, haven’t been able to participate as often. So, at large, we really need volunteers.”

If interested in volunteering, email Brother’s Keeper Ministries at Jason@bkocala.org or call (352) 622-3846.

Posted in Community, News

Share this post

[fbcomments]

Latest Articles

Gallery: Trinity Catholic Loses To Florida Stat...

Trinity Catholic Loses To Florida State 17-12

Celtics season ends with loss to Florida High, ...

In what would be a fiercely contested playoff football game,...

Ocala Golf Course finishes the 2020-21 fiscal y...

Across the country during the pandemic, golf courses saw increases...

City attorney outlines new (and expensive) stra...

During the Nov. 16 Ocala City Council meeting, city attorney...

IFAS/County partnership a valuable resource for...

The Marion County Board of County Commissioners declared Nov 17-24...

Agricultural land rezoned for 54 homes, surroun...

At the Marion County Board of County Commissioners (MCBOCC) meeting...