Larry Apperson (left) and Beth Zeitler (far right) speak with a mother/daughter team, Jackie Berger and Emma Glasser.
Just inside the doors of Princeton United Methodist Church, on a recent Wednesday, geraniums decorated the red-and-white covered tables, and napkins were tied with matching red ribbons. A dozen volunteers donned aprons and disposable gloves, ready to serve at Cornerstone Community Kitchen, When Emma Glasser arrived, Nicole Oliver, a high school sophomore from PUMC, showed her how to serve the trays – entrees and vegetables from the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, plus a green salad, a fruit salad, juice, bread, and a dessert.
Larry Apperson had the vision for Cornerstone Community Kitchen (CCK), and it will celebrate its first anniversary on June 5. In partnership with the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) every Wednesday, no matter what, volunteers from the church and the community have served a free and nutritious meal from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the church on the corner of Nassau and Vandeventer. All are welcome, no questions asked.
Some come for the food, some for the fellowship. Mothers come with children, and several people are here to practice speaking English.
Among the diners on this particular Wednesday is a woman who takes the bus to a job in Princeton. “Some of us who have jobs, we can’t get help from the government, but we still have trouble paying our bills,” she says.
“The members of Princeton United Methodist church have a strong commitment to service,” says Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash, PUMC’s senior pastor. People from the community have also been eager to help – preparing the greens, the fruit, and the eggs, and donating baked desserts – plus working as servers and hosts. Judy Miller coordinates the décor and Beth Zeitler organizers the volunteers. “Brownie troops donate cupcakes, and we have had an entire office pitch in,” says Zeitler. “CCK is also popular as a bar or bat mitzvah project for teens from the Jewish Center. Our greatest need is for people to prepare salads and fruit.”
Panera Bread and the Bagel Hole regularly donate baked goods, and Zorba’s Brother donated a turkey dinner during the holidays. “We’re grateful for the in-kind donations,” says Apperson, “and also for cash donations to cover our costs. Egg salad sandwiches are a favorite take-home item, and children leave with breakfast in a bag.”
As she helps clear the tables, Glasser, a John Witherspoon Middle School student who is volunteering as part of her bat mitzvah Hesed Project, says that her experience was just what she had hoped it would be. “It was like a community here,” she says. “Everybody was so friendly, so happy to be here. I am glad to have helped.”