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Amsterdam's AMEN Place Soup Kitchen continues its work feeding hungry amid coronavirus response

Amsterdam's AMEN Place Soup Kitchen continues its work feeding hungry amid coronavirus response

Volunteers prepare bags to be picked up outside in order to maintain social distancing
Amsterdam's AMEN Place Soup Kitchen continues its work feeding hungry amid coronavirus response
Volunteer Craig Lange, of Scotia, moves filled bags with a weeks worth of food on a cart during the weekly pickups
Photographer: Erica Miller

AMSTERDAM — For two decades, Christine Andrzejczyk and her husband Karl have done their part to feed those in need through the AMEN Place Soup Kitchen that the couple started together.

The current uncertainty centered around the spread of the novel coronavirus has forced a few changes to the way things are done, but the mission remains the same.

Feed as many people as possible.

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“We want to let people know that we’re here,” Christine Andrzejczyk said. “Every Tuesday.”

All day Tuesday, volunteers at the kitchen were helping distribute hundreds of parcels, each containing enough food to last a family of four for approximately a week.

Under normal circumstances, the interior of the kitchen at 105 Guy Park Ave. is set up like a grocery store, with residents able to come inside on Tuesdays to choose items. This week, and for the foreseeable future as social distancing is implemented to try and stem the spread of COVID-19, things were being done a bit differently.

Inside the soup kitchen, a handful of volunteers — all wearing gloves, most wearing masks — were filling bags, assembly-line style. As they were needed, bags were brought out to a table in front of the building and those in need could walk by, pick up the food and be on their way without needing to jostle around in a crowded building.

Pickups started at 8 a.m. Tuesday. By noon, a clicker on the table outside had counted off more than 200 bags already distributed, with plans to keep going throughout the day until the supply was exhausted.

“Usually, we do about 250 people,” Christine Andrezejczyk said. “Now, things might change. We might have more.”

The packages of food contained bread, pastries, peanut butter, canned goods and other items. Meat was kept frozen and other items were held in refrigeration.

Rosemary Schiftner, of Mariaville, was one of the volunteers constantly putting bags together, assembly-line style, as they were needed.

“We pack as the day goes along,” said Schiftner, who said she’s volunteered at the soup kitchen for a little more than five years, “so things stay at the temperature they should stay at.”

On a normal Tuesday, people would start coming into the soup kitchen to stock up between 10:30 and 11 a.m.

Now, with circumstances anything but normal, adjustments are being made.

“We’ve been saying, ‘You come, we’ll get you out as soon as we can,’” Christine Andrezejczyk said. “We want to show people that it’s not hopeless. There’s people here, a friendly face to say hello. We try to get you out and about so that nobody’s keeping close contact.”

“There’s a lot of people here who are really in trouble and need things,” Schiftner said. “We’re happy to do it.”

AMEN Place Soup Kitchen started 20 years ago, with the Andrezejczyks originally operating out of St. Casimir’s Church on East Main Street. When St. Casimir’s closed, the kitchen moved to St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, before eventually moving operations to the standalone facility on Guy Park Avenue in 2018.

The new, single-floor location originally provided extra convenience to those entering the soup kitchen who had difficulty navigating the steps downstairs to the old location. Now, it’s made the job of carting prepared bags out to the new distribution spot much easier.

In addition to sustenance, on this particular Tuesday the kitchen was also offering a serving of spirituality. Both The Rev. Judy Humphrey-Fox of Amsterdam’s United Methodist Church and Pastor Philip Bishop of Freedom Life Baptist Church spent time in the parking lot to pray with and console those in need.

“We’re just letting people know that there’s hope,” Bishop said. “These are uncertain times that I’ve never gone through in my life, and I know they haven’t either. Everyone I’ve talked to, nobody has refused to allow me to pray for them. Just praying for them and letting them know that even through something like this, God is still working. God loves people, he’s still alive and they just need to trust in him through this.”

“Something like this, this is exactly what Jesus did,” he continued. “Jesus fed people that needed it. To see something like this, this is what Jesus would be doing — helping people.”

And as long as there are still people in need — especially in times like these — Christine Andrzejczyk wants to assure people that her work won’t stop.

“We keep getting calls all the time, people saying ‘Are you open? Are you still there?’ We’ve been doing this every week,” she said. “We were here last week, and until such time as we’re told we can’t, or there’s no food or somebody — God forbid — gets sick, we’ll be here.”

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