For over 17 years, the AMEN Place Soup Kitchen has been serving meals and providing food for those in need in the Amsterdam area. Tomorrow, the community has an opportunity to show its support as The Century Club on 130 Guy Park Avenue in Amsterdam will be hosting a free breakfast from 8am to 11am. Donations of food or money of any dollar amount will be accepted at the breakfast, all of which will benefit the soup kitchen.
The event is being sponsored by City of Amsterdam resident and former county supervisor Karl Baia, with help from other area businesses and organizations including Logan’s Bar and Grill in Speculator, Ricmar Design & Printing in Amsterdam, Dan Vann Properties in Amsterdam, the Century Club, the Knights of Columbus and the Auriesville Shrine.
Baia said he decided to spearhead the event in order to bring attention to the problem of hunger in the city. He recalled that one day last summer, he observed just how important the soup kitchen is to the community.
“I saw a line out the door, through the parking lot and down Guy Park Avenue with people utilizing the soup kitchen. The soup kitchen is serving a very vulnerable portion of our population, including the elderly population,” said Baia.
The AMEN (All Ministries Embracing Need) Place Soup Kitchen was started in 2001 by Christine and Karl Andrzejcyk, and has had a couple of homes over the year – first at St. Casmir’s Church, then at St. Luke’s Church – before recently moving into a vacant building on Guy Park Avenue.
“Our goal is to be able to give out food and serve hot meals again which we haven’t been able to do in the last year,” Karl Andrzejczyk said.
According to Andrzejczyk, over one million hot meals have been served since it’s opening. But the new location doesn’t have a working kitchen yet, and has been limited to providing bags of groceries only. However, the soup kitchen is undergoing a major renovation this year to install a kitchen so that they can once again serve hot meals. The founders said they hope to be open for hot meals by January once the facility is approved by the New York State Department of Health.
Many volunteers have donated their time and experience installing the kitchen and the building’s electrical, sewage, and water hookups.
“Back in the late 1990s, my wife and I would see a lot of people who would be rummaging through trash bins at McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken going through their garbage,” Andrzejczyk said. “It didn’t look good and most people didn’t realize that there was a need for food in the community.”
Andrzejczyk said the last soup kitchen that existed in Amsterdam was in the Great Depression of the 1930s.
“When we saw there was a need especially for older people to get nutrition we opened the soup kitchen at St. Casmir’s which operated until 2009,” he said.
Currently, AMEN Place Soup Kitchen gives away a week’s worth of donated food every Tuesday from 11am until 3 pm to needful individuals without requiring proof of income or social services, nor taking down names and other identification.
“You see people walking out with bags and bags of food which is great,” Andrzejcyk said.
“For us, a lot of people are only one paycheck away from being in a situation where they need food. To lose a job, to be in between jobs, or to be the working poor who need extra food, then we are here to help,” he said.
Andrzejczyk said the public’s awareness of food shortages may be more apparent during the holiday season, but the need is there all the time.
“What the holidays do for us is it gives us a redirection that we should be helping others. Our goal is to help people understand that this help is required throughout the year,” he said. “Any little bit people can donate for food to the program or any other food pantry is a tremendous blessing to those living in our community.”
“We treat everyone with respect because we know how hard it is in today’s world to make ends meet,” he added
Andrzejczyk said many of AMEN Place Soup Kitchen’s volunteers have been on the receiving end of food when they were in tough situations themselves, especially in their youth.
He pointed out that volunteers and donations are needed by many food programs in the area throughout the year.
“We are all here to help each other…no one has to fall through the cracks. We are that safety net,” Andrzejczyk said. “For us, it is a part of giving back.”
For more information about the breakfast, contact Karl Baia at 518-441-8249. For information about the soup kitchen, contact Karl Andrzejczyk at 518-857-3207.