Feeding the needy in East St. Louis
With temperatures starting to fall, a hot meal can mean make all the difference in how the day goes.
This is even more true for the needy who line up for lunch at Cosgrove’s Soup Kitchen in East St. Louis. And with more than 100,000 meals served each year, there is certainly a need.
And service is improving with an infusion of $500,000 worth of donated labor and materials for a long-overdue renovation project happening now.
The St. Vincent de Paul Council runs the kitchen and has paid $100,000 from donations and are hoping to raise an additional $150,000 in cash to complete the renovation by February.
“We rely on the good will and generosity of people who believe in what we’re doing,” said Pat Hogrebe, 61, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Belleville Council. She is one of four paid staffers at the center.
Hundreds of volunteer hours from plumbers, electricians, apprentices and others can make for a loud lunch, but no one is complaining.
And once visitors no longer have empty stomachs, Pat and her crew are there to help the people they serve become independent.
“We primarily start with helping them to get their IDs. If you do not have that, you cannot go to a shelter, you can’t get a job, you can do nothing,” Hogrebe said.
Getting a new ID can take months when some clients need to start the process by replacing their birth certificates as well as their Social Security cards. Both are required before getting a state ID card.
And a thrift store is on site to help people with their daily clothing and making a new start with work clothes or attire for a job interview.
“We have volunteers who are dedicated to that. A guy who’s never been to Macy’s feels like a million bucks when he leaves. It’s remarkable,” Hogrebe said.
And helping to keep clients on track with medication assistance and mental health referrals are also part of the daily mission.
“A lot of those who visit our soup kitchen are homeless and they are mentally ill. It’s one of my biggest problems,” Hogrebe said.
Council vice president Joe Hubbard, 74, says it’s partially generosity and also payback for helping people, including union and skilled workers.
“Over the years, I’ve worked with labor unions when they were on strikes and people got disabled or needed help,” Hubbard said. “They are really coming through.”
Newly built showers, an area to do laundry, meeting areas to assess client needs are all included in the vision for the facility, which has been a hodge podge of semi-functional areas in a building which didn’t even have air conditioning (also donated) a few months ago.
D’Anthony Williams, 45, remains hopeful and grateful while chatting and eating lunch.
“I got my state ID, my Social Security card. So, to get all that stuff back, it’s awesome. It’s cold outside, so she (Pat Hogrebe) really helped me out a lot. A lot.”
To pitch in or donate, contact the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at 618-394-0126 for email at email@example.com.
Steve Nagy: 618-239-2470
Want to help?
- What: Fundraising 75th birthday party for St. Vincent de Paul Vice President Joe Hubbard
- Event details: Live music a silent auction and a visit from Santa. Donations to St. Vincent de Paul are requested in lieu of gifts for Joe.
- Cost: $25 per person includes hors d’ oeuvres, desserts, wine, beer and soda
- When: 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10
- Where: Holy Trinity Parish Gym, 505 Fountains Parkway, Fairview Heights
- More information: contact Judy Phillips at 618-567-6876 or Pat Hogrebe at 618-394-0126.
- Donations honoring Joe can be mailed to: Happy Birthday Joe, The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, P.O. Box 3415, East St. Louis, Illinois 62203