Jackson café's mission to feed body, soul grows larger

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.
Jackson café's mission to feed body, soul grows larger
Jackson café's mission to feed body, soul grows larger


By Lois Rogers, Correspondent

When the Bread From Heaven Café opened May 20, 2016, in the Knights of Columbus Hall on Bartley Road in Jackson, the number of volunteers waiting to serve its first communal meal was nearly double the number of those who came to eat.

As the café’s founder, Helen Ludowig, recently recalled, 17 people, mostly from around the Jackson area, turned up opening day to share a full-course dinner of vegetable soup, salad, pasta, roast chicken and cookies blessed by Father John Bambrick, pastor of St. Aloysius Parish.

As Ludowig, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion in the Jackson parish, and a crew of nearly 40 mostly fellow parishioners served those first meals, they prayed that these first guests would spread the word about Bread From Heaven with the wider community.

The mission statement describes the nonprofit café/pantry as a “safe haven where everyone is welcome for a hot meal and a food pantry so families can benefit from taking food home.” In the year-and-a-half that has followed, it’s become abundantly clear that the prayers offered that first day were clearly heard.

Now, when Bread From Heaven opens its doors on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., it’s not unusual for somewhere between 100 and 150 folks of all generations to enter the Columbian Room Hall for a healthy meal and some heartfelt companionship, Ludowig said.

Among them every week without fail, are many elderly couples, singles and those of all ages with disabilities for whom the communal meal has become the outing of the week.

Take Catherine and Sal Del Prete for instance. At 85 and 95 respectively, they are no longer able to venture out of their home independently. Like a number who attend, they are grateful to café volunteers who drive them to the hall every week.

The outing to Bread From Heaven Café is a wonderful complement to the visit they receive every week from an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion from St. Aloysius Parish who brings the Sacrament to their home, Catherine Del Prete said.

“Coming here surrounds us with people. I love this,” she said, gesturing around the spacious room, which buzzed on a recent Tuesday afternoon with activity, conversation at tables and songs offered by area vocalist Ellen Fazio, who volunteers her musical accompaniment every week.

Sitting nearby, 92-year-old Esther Alexandra Niman agreed. “People welcome me, and they greet me. When you are in old age, you like to see people.”

Niman enjoys the meals so much that every week she telephones Laura Tunis, who drives her to the café.

“She calls it our Tuesday date,” said Tunis, a member of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Jackson.

Tunis first learned of the Ludowig shortly after the café opened by way of an advertisement on the internet. “I was selling a printer,” she recalled with a big smile. Ludowig was looking for one so that she could print out fliers and other advertisements for the café.

“She asked me if I would be willing to donate it and I told her I would, and I told Helen that I knew a lady I could bring on Tuesdays.” Tunis was already stopping by Niman’s house for visits and to take her shopping. She knew the older woman would benefit from a meal in a community setting.

Coming to the café, Tunis said, really helps Niman. “Esther loves the company, meeting people of all different faiths and backgrounds. She gets to bring home food from the café, which really helps with her dinners at home. Every little bit helps her so much.”

As for herself, Tunis said, she enjoys volunteering. “It’s the right thing to do,” she said. “It’s in the blood.”

Never-ending Need

Ludowig said life experiences nurtured her desire to give back to the community. She has vast experience in administrative jobs in New York and New Jersey, including hospitals, and she is one of three sisters adopted by a Catholic family.

In retirement, she joined Holy Redeemer Hospice and volunteered to serve Thanksgiving dinners in the area, but always felt the need to do more.

Her determination to help meet a need she saw in the community at-large – providing food and fellowship – found a receptive ear in her pastor.

Father Bambrick supported her idea for the café, gave her guidance and remains uplifted by the amount of cooperation Bread From Heaven has received from the Knights of Columbus, area businesses and members of the parish community, she said.

On the recent busy Tuesday at the café, Ludowig stepped back and surveyed the bustling scene.

“I didn’t want to call it a soup kitchen,” she reflected. “It is a café. It is a place where people help people.”

It’s a reflection, she said, of filling a need for more kindness in the world. “We know there is a lot of need out there, and I’m happy that we press forward with this.”

Helping Hands

Ludowig said she is especially gratified by the support and cooperation the effort from the people of the parish and the community at-large, noting that the café regularly receives help from the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul conference, commercial establishments including the Olive Garden, ShopRite, Panera Bread, Red Lobster, and the area Pepperidge Farm outlet. A van has been donated to help with food pick-up and distribution as they share and exchange with other food pantries in the area.

Father Bambrick credited Ludowig in her efforts to coordinate volunteers and the community outreach to sustain the café. “It is all by God’s grace that this came about.”

He also praised the Knights of Columbus for welcoming the pantry/café into the building on Bartley Road.

“They have been so generous. It is a tremendous outpouring from the parish and the community,” he said, explaining that there is no formal financial support.

“The Catholic community here is phenomenal in their understanding of social teaching. If someone is in need, you direct them to the need and they are always right there,” he said.

Among those who have been supportive of the café are parishioners Bill O’Donovan, and Joe and Maryann Pucilowski.

The trio helps every Tuesday with O’Donovan, a past Grand Knight and member of the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul conference, overseeing the set up and break down of the dining room, and the Pucilowskis planning and preparing meals.

In addition, Joe Pucilowski, retired director of space and terrestrial communication in Fort Monmouth, has also written a series of grants that have helped meet the annual $15,000 budget for the café’s operation.

O’Donovan speaks for many when he refers to the café as offering more than a meal.

“I liken this to Meals on Wheels in that it makes someone’s day a little better. There are a whole lot of pieces to this pie,” he said, adding that the volunteers are uplifted by service, too. “These folks are getting to enjoy our place, and the doors are open.”

 

 

[[In-content Ad]]

Related Stories

By Lois Rogers, Correspondent

When the Bread From Heaven Café opened May 20, 2016, in the Knights of Columbus Hall on Bartley Road in Jackson, the number of volunteers waiting to serve its first communal meal was nearly double the number of those who came to eat.

As the café’s founder, Helen Ludowig, recently recalled, 17 people, mostly from around the Jackson area, turned up opening day to share a full-course dinner of vegetable soup, salad, pasta, roast chicken and cookies blessed by Father John Bambrick, pastor of St. Aloysius Parish.

As Ludowig, an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion in the Jackson parish, and a crew of nearly 40 mostly fellow parishioners served those first meals, they prayed that these first guests would spread the word about Bread From Heaven with the wider community.

The mission statement describes the nonprofit café/pantry as a “safe haven where everyone is welcome for a hot meal and a food pantry so families can benefit from taking food home.” In the year-and-a-half that has followed, it’s become abundantly clear that the prayers offered that first day were clearly heard.

Now, when Bread From Heaven opens its doors on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., it’s not unusual for somewhere between 100 and 150 folks of all generations to enter the Columbian Room Hall for a healthy meal and some heartfelt companionship, Ludowig said.

Among them every week without fail, are many elderly couples, singles and those of all ages with disabilities for whom the communal meal has become the outing of the week.

Take Catherine and Sal Del Prete for instance. At 85 and 95 respectively, they are no longer able to venture out of their home independently. Like a number who attend, they are grateful to café volunteers who drive them to the hall every week.

The outing to Bread From Heaven Café is a wonderful complement to the visit they receive every week from an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion from St. Aloysius Parish who brings the Sacrament to their home, Catherine Del Prete said.

“Coming here surrounds us with people. I love this,” she said, gesturing around the spacious room, which buzzed on a recent Tuesday afternoon with activity, conversation at tables and songs offered by area vocalist Ellen Fazio, who volunteers her musical accompaniment every week.

Sitting nearby, 92-year-old Esther Alexandra Niman agreed. “People welcome me, and they greet me. When you are in old age, you like to see people.”

Niman enjoys the meals so much that every week she telephones Laura Tunis, who drives her to the café.

“She calls it our Tuesday date,” said Tunis, a member of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Jackson.

Tunis first learned of the Ludowig shortly after the café opened by way of an advertisement on the internet. “I was selling a printer,” she recalled with a big smile. Ludowig was looking for one so that she could print out fliers and other advertisements for the café.

“She asked me if I would be willing to donate it and I told her I would, and I told Helen that I knew a lady I could bring on Tuesdays.” Tunis was already stopping by Niman’s house for visits and to take her shopping. She knew the older woman would benefit from a meal in a community setting.

Coming to the café, Tunis said, really helps Niman. “Esther loves the company, meeting people of all different faiths and backgrounds. She gets to bring home food from the café, which really helps with her dinners at home. Every little bit helps her so much.”

As for herself, Tunis said, she enjoys volunteering. “It’s the right thing to do,” she said. “It’s in the blood.”

Never-ending Need

Ludowig said life experiences nurtured her desire to give back to the community. She has vast experience in administrative jobs in New York and New Jersey, including hospitals, and she is one of three sisters adopted by a Catholic family.

In retirement, she joined Holy Redeemer Hospice and volunteered to serve Thanksgiving dinners in the area, but always felt the need to do more.

Her determination to help meet a need she saw in the community at-large – providing food and fellowship – found a receptive ear in her pastor.

Father Bambrick supported her idea for the café, gave her guidance and remains uplifted by the amount of cooperation Bread From Heaven has received from the Knights of Columbus, area businesses and members of the parish community, she said.

On the recent busy Tuesday at the café, Ludowig stepped back and surveyed the bustling scene.

“I didn’t want to call it a soup kitchen,” she reflected. “It is a café. It is a place where people help people.”

It’s a reflection, she said, of filling a need for more kindness in the world. “We know there is a lot of need out there, and I’m happy that we press forward with this.”

Helping Hands

Ludowig said she is especially gratified by the support and cooperation the effort from the people of the parish and the community at-large, noting that the café regularly receives help from the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul conference, commercial establishments including the Olive Garden, ShopRite, Panera Bread, Red Lobster, and the area Pepperidge Farm outlet. A van has been donated to help with food pick-up and distribution as they share and exchange with other food pantries in the area.

Father Bambrick credited Ludowig in her efforts to coordinate volunteers and the community outreach to sustain the café. “It is all by God’s grace that this came about.”

He also praised the Knights of Columbus for welcoming the pantry/café into the building on Bartley Road.

“They have been so generous. It is a tremendous outpouring from the parish and the community,” he said, explaining that there is no formal financial support.

“The Catholic community here is phenomenal in their understanding of social teaching. If someone is in need, you direct them to the need and they are always right there,” he said.

Among those who have been supportive of the café are parishioners Bill O’Donovan, and Joe and Maryann Pucilowski.

The trio helps every Tuesday with O’Donovan, a past Grand Knight and member of the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul conference, overseeing the set up and break down of the dining room, and the Pucilowskis planning and preparing meals.

In addition, Joe Pucilowski, retired director of space and terrestrial communication in Fort Monmouth, has also written a series of grants that have helped meet the annual $15,000 budget for the café’s operation.

O’Donovan speaks for many when he refers to the café as offering more than a meal.

“I liken this to Meals on Wheels in that it makes someone’s day a little better. There are a whole lot of pieces to this pie,” he said, adding that the volunteers are uplifted by service, too. “These folks are getting to enjoy our place, and the doors are open.”

 

 

[[In-content Ad]]
Have a news tip? Email [email protected] or Call/Text 360-922-3092

e-Edition


e-edition

Sign up


for our email newsletters

Weekly Top Stories

Sign up to get our top stories delivered to your inbox every Sunday

Daily Updates & Breaking News Alerts

Sign up to get our daily updates and breaking news alerts delivered to your inbox daily

Latest Stories


February 2024: LENT
Lent is traditionally a time for prayer and fasting. This year, I am especially drawn to these words from my reading: “Fasting is the soul of prayer...

February 2024 In Focus: Catholic Schools Week
Catholic Schools Week fills school communities with lasting memories...

January 2024 Seasons & Celebrations: Let Us Adore
The 2023 celebrations of Advent and Christmas showcased the anticipation, beauty, reverence and hope the seasons evoke...

Funeral services announced for Dr. Eileen Marie Hoefling, former Chancery staffer
Dr. Eileen Marie Hoefling, a former associate director of the diocesan Office of Religious Education (now Department of Catechesis), died Feb. 19 at age 77.

Mercer CYO crowns six champs and reveals award winners in basketball championship
It was Championship Sunday at the Mercer County CYO Center in Trenton Feb. 18 ...


The Evangelist, 40 North Main Ave., Albany, NY, 12203-1422 | PHONE: 518-453-6688| FAX: 518-453-8448
© 2024 Trenton Monitor, All Rights Reserved.