by Patty Mengers,
Eleven o’clock Monday morning and the energy is pumping in the basement of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the 300 block of East Ninth Street, site of Chester Eastside Inc.
Along the far wall, bushel baskets of fresh produce and bags of bread create a cornucopia effect as men and women of all colors, creeds and ages line-up for food to bring home to their families.
To the immediate left, neatly folded garments are displayed on a table for those in need of clothing. Meanwhile, children attending summer camp, weave through the crowd and make their way to the parking lot where they read aloud while the young adults who are their counselors, record their story-telling on mobile phones.
“They graciously allowed us to come here after we couldn’t maintain our building,” explained the Rev. Bernice Warren, referring to the pastor and congregation of St. Paul’s who have been hosting Chester Eastside Inc. for about four years.
The group’s original home in the Third Presbyterian Church of Chester about a block away had begun to crumble and Warren, who has been pastor and director of Chester Eastside since 1995, had to find a new space for the organization and it’s approximately 10 social service programs she has cultivated over the last two decades with the help of a small staff and volunteers.
“How ya’ doin’? Hey girl!” says Warren this particular July Monday as she greets the Chester residents who avail themselves of the more than 100,000 meals a year provided by the non-profit organization.
It is one of the parts of her job that she will miss come December, when she plans to retire.
“I’ve loved being here and doing what I do. I feel at home. It’s a real blessing to come back to Chester and have God use me this way. I love every minute. It brings me much joy,” said the 64-year-old Chester native.
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