The Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling needs more financial help because the number of people seeking meals there has grown this summer.
Executive Director Becky Shilling-Rodocker noted most of the new patrons aren't homeless, but rather families with children and jobs whose incomes don't stretch until the end of the month.
"It has gotten worse," Shilling-Rodocker said. "Every single day I'm seeing new faces. People are coming from all over, and we're seeing more families.
Photo by Joselyn King
Becky Shilling-Rodocker, left, executive director of the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling, holds grandson Aidan while she and head cook Beth Bednar examine a shipment of cucumbers arriving at the kitchen.
"Eleven years ago when I first came here, we were serving mostly middle-aged men," she added. "And now we're feeding three times as many people."
She attributes the increase to today's high cost of food and lower wages.
"Many people don't have family-sustainable jobs," Shilling-Rodocker said. "They have jobs, but a lot of people considered middle class are needing help. Their food stamps are getting cut. And when food stamps get cut, we get busier."
Serving 125 meals in a day at the soup kitchen was considered a lot a decade ago, she said. Today, at least 300 meals are served there on a typical day, according to Shilling-Rodocker, and the number increases near the end of each month.
She said that during the last week of May, the number of those served lunch in one day reached 331. The soup kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
"People used to line up at 11 a.m., but now they're coming later," Rodocker said. "They know we won't run out of food."
Breakfast also is served between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. Dinner is provided at the soup kitchen on "Just for Kids" nights every Wednesday.
Shilling-Rodocker said about 113,000 meals were served at the soup kitchen in 2011, and the annual budget there is about $300,000.
Shilling-Rodocker said she seeks to maintain a clean, safe and inviting environment at the soup kitchen, where parents aren't embarrassed to bring their children - who often come to see it as just a restaurant they enjoy. Youngsters particularly enjoy the large aquarium with fish in the eating area at the soup kitchen, she said.
The newer building, located at 1610 Eoff St. in downtown Wheeling, is kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and Rodocker said utilities can run $1,500 a month.
"It's a place for people to go get out of the heat and have a meal," she said.
Some even get their mail there, or call their families from the soup kitchen, Shilling-Rodocker added.
The soup kitchen is in need of both volunteers and financial donations. Those interested in serving should call 304-233-2992, and donations should be sent to the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling at P.O. Box 546, 1610 Eoff St., Wheeling, WV 26003.