It all started with a group of cooks in a church kitchen
in Hasbrouck Heights just two-plus years ago.
They were on a mission to feed those in need.
Today they are still on that mission. More so than ever as now they are feeding about 5,000 people in the area per month.
Meals With a Mission, a group of 80 plus area volunteers, is now a non-profit organization operating out of its new home in Garfield. Volunteers gather almost every day to cook and package meals which they then bring to local shelters.
The mission began at Corpus Christi Church in the fall of 2010 spearheaded by Hasbrouck Heights' Joseph Blythe. The mission brought folks from the church and its sister parish Assumption Church in Wood-Ridge together weekly to cook meals.
Soon they were making hundreds of meals a month. That quickly grew to thousands.
"The more people we served made us find there was such a need we couldn't meet in the space we were in. Once again we were inspired by the Holy Spirit to do more," said Blythe.
It takes many hands to help in this mission and many people have come through.
A donation of thousands of dollars worth of test kitchen equipment from Blythe's friend Mike Marella who works in the food industry helped bring the dream of growing Meals with a Mission a reality. Blythe then set out to find a space and soon the Harrison Avenue location in Garfield became its new home.
Blythe points out the importance of the move was to feed more people. Previously they were able to make about 1,000 meals a month but now they average 5,000 meals a month.
"Just because we are not in a church kitchen anymore does not change the fact we are a faith based organization," said Blythe of the whole reason why they set out to help others. "We are here to do Gods work. That is our mission and that will never change regardless of where we are located."
Kim Arias, a case manager with the St. Paul's Mens Shelter in Paterson, says the men at the shelter are so appreciative of the meals the group provides them regularly.
"They are amazing here. It's a blessing to come and, say hello and pick up the donations," said Arias who has been working with Meals With a Mission for about two years. She says the men love the meals and she has never heard a complaint once.
Meals With a Mission is all volunteer. The core group which started in Hasbrouck Heights still comes weekly to cook, clean, and serve meals and they are joined by other area folks who want to be a part and give back.
Carol Walsh, who organizes the volunteer teams, says they work with volunteers schedules to set up a group to make meals during times that work for them. Some are available in the evenings and there is also a group that meets morning and afternoons.
All that is needed are basic cooking skills and if one does not want to cook, he or she can be a big help cleaning up as well.
The most rewarding experience of all is serving hot meals at shelters. Walsh says they always set out to bring meals that have that "homey" feeling.
"The best part is serving and seeing the people's faces light up when they have something they haven't had in a long time. They get excited and they will thank you," said Walsh.
She recalled a time at the Hoboken shelter when the entire crowd cheered when she displayed peach cobbler. One young man told her it was "heaven in a cup." Another young woman was so excited to eat the pork chops they brought.
Also helping in the mission was a team of business students at Felician College in Lodi who developed a marketing plan for the organization as part of their study. Blythe said they created their brochure and a fundraising plan.
They get most of their food supplies from the Community Food Bank in Hillside and also survive through fundraising and donations. Walmart in Garfield has been a huge supporter with monetary donations and giving the Mission a food processor which helps with meal preparations, said Blythe. Donations can be given online through the Mission's website as well.
Blythe says the borough of Garfield itself has embraced their mission as there is a great need right in their backyard. They have been working regularly with the town's Board of Health and family service programs.
Volunteers and donations are always welcome to help Meals With a Mission continue to serve those in need in the surrounding community. To volunteer call 201-986-6325.