Beginning on June 6, 2012, PCCK - described by our supporters as “a soup kitchen that looks and feels like an upscale restaurant” - served its first meal and has continued for every consecutive Wednesday, including all major holidays. Attendance has grown from fourteen the first night to an average of over 100 each Wednesday night. A group of volunteers works on Tuesdays and midday on Wednesdays to prepare the side dishes (including nutritious vegetable dishes, salads, fresh fruit salad, etc.) to complement the professionally prepared entrees provided by Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK).
Guests come for a myriad of reasons: the free, nutritious meal of course, conversation with other guests, or just a night when they can be served rather than do the serving. Guests are seated at round tables of eight that are donned with tablecloths, centerpieces, and candles while piano music fills the venue.
PCCK is not the typical free-meal operation. There is no food line to stand in; the meals are served by volunteers from throughout the community, each meal delivered to the guest by a server with a smile and friendly greeting. Also available to our guest are donations of produce, breads, frozen meats, and desserts received from local farmers, restaurants and stores. Take-out meals are available to each guest, and children are given a "breakfast bag" including a fruit drink, instant oatmeal, and a granola bar, thereby extending our impact on reducing hunger for another day.
We have expanded the original intent of offering just a free meal to include several other services:
Guests have the opportunity to shop at our free "clothing store" that receives donations from throughout the community.
A Registered Nurse in available for vision and blood pressure screening.
A free English as a second language (ESL) class is offered for interested guests with four students graduating in 2017.
We hope to be able to offer even more free services as resources allow, and based on our guests' needs.
A profile of our guests is complex, but represents the less fortunate in the Princeton Community. While there are seniors who attend for the conversation and a "night out," about a dozen are the street people of Princeton, and there are a few who are employed in low-paying jobs. The majority, however, are Hispanic, low income, deficient in English, and with children.
PCCK in its sixth-year existence has earned the trust of this segment of the Community. With this trust from the inner circle of Princeton’s poor, we are uniquely positioned to develop and offer programs that will be readily accepted, guiding them into our community’s mainstream. It is reasonable to assume that as this inner circle comes into the mainstream, others will follow.
Princeton’s Mayor Liz Lempert and Town Council recognized PCCK for their “outstanding contributions to the Princeton community”. Mayor Lempert said “you have truly made a difference in Princeton”.