Volunteers for the soup kitchen at St. Lucie Parish in Port St. Lucie do a variety of tasks to feed those in need of a good meal. (COURTESY PHOTO)

St. Lucie volunteers serve the poor

PORT ST. LUCIE | Lourdes Alfonso, a parishioner of St. Lucie Parish for the past 27 years, has devoted most of her life volunteering to help the poor.

For the past ten years, she has overseen the soup kitchen at St. Lucie, even while battling cancer. Her weekly duties include menu planning, food shopping, collecting food donations from different stores, food preparation and cooking, serving of meals, and overseeing the many volunteers of all ages.

Everyone who works at the soup kitchen is a volunteer, many of whom have worked there since 2008.

The kitchen is operated by donations and there is no cost to people who are served. Dinner is served Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., which includes drinks and desserts. Before leaving, guests are offered bread and pastries. Alfonso explained donations come from area parishes and the local St. Vincent de Paul Society.

“A lot of parishioners come and ask me every week what I need for the soup kitchen. I tell them and then the people start dropping it off,” said Alfonso, who is now cancer-free. “I get and receive such fulfillment and joy from helping the needy. I put all my love into cooking good quality food. It makes me feel so good when I see people who live alone enjoying companionship with others and getting a good nutritious meal. My happiness and fulfillment come from helping the poor.”

Alfonso’s schedule typically includes picking up food donations Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Those days begin at 4 a.m., as she drives to various Publix stores picking up baked bread, pastries, snacks and other supplies. She also drives to Panera Bread, which donates many loaves of bread to the soup kitchen, and Nelson Farms, which donates fresh vegetables.

“I get quality food at low prices,” Alfonso said. “Many of our bread ministry volunteers deliver donated food to the needy who cannot get to the soup kitchen, wherever there is a need.”

There are many volunteers who help at the soup kitchen, including Susan Prentice, who moved to the area last March from Virginia.

“I get so much more out of this than the people who come here, I am sure,” Prentice said. MaryJane Finley has been volunteering for 10 years.

“I do it to help those who are in need and it is part of my religious belief to help the poor,” she said.
Another volunteer, Teena Dunn, has been volunteering for almost two years.

“It makes you feel good to serve God,” she said.