Tucked away in the basement of St. Joseph’s Church on Walcott Street, the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen has new management with two full-time staff members replacing Ernie Marot, the long-time director of the kitchen who recently retired after 18 years. With an infusion of cash from a donation by Cumberland businessman John Pinkos, the owner of Texcel, Inc., the board of directors of the six-days-a-week soup kitchen are able to fund two positions to fill Marot’s one at the kitchen he founded in 1992.
Adrienne Marchetti began working in February as the kitchen’s new director. Having worked at Amos House as the assistant director for twelve years, and as the executive director of the Furniture Bank for three years, Marchetti has much experience in social services and in community work. As a volunteer, she helped implement the legal clinic at the RI Coalition for the Homeless.
“This past week we’ve had 35-40 people a night. Folks of all ages come—seniors and families. Everyone is welcome who is hungry. To get to St. Joseph’s Church, just take Bus 76 from downtown Pawtucket,” says Marchetti. Donations from area supermarkets and businesses determine the menu. “We serve cafeteria style and, naturally, some folks have their favorite spot,” she adds.
The new kitchen manager is Jeffrey Smith, who volunteered while Marot was head chef so that he already knows the routine and all the guests. “Ernie left big shoes to fill,” said Smith of his former boss Marot. “Now I go to Dunkin Donuts, then Stop n’ Shop each morning, and a number of other businesses and restaurants. I love this! I love it. Can’t get no better than this!” said Smith of the work he learned at the culinary arts program at Amos House.
At the beginning of March, Smith started cooking everything fresh. The menu includes favorites like lasagna, Shepherd’s Pie, baked macaroni, and meatloaf. Most days folks get a shot at seconds, and after “last call” is announced, the bread is put out that diners can take home. “Each day we make sure everyone has coffee, milk, juice and water in addition to dessert and, on Saturdays we have breakfast that’ll consist of bacon, eggs, homefries, juice and coffee or tea, and maybe the next week it’ll be French toast, bagels, pancakes, etc.,” said Smith.
“Each day we have 4-6 volunteers,” relates Smith who works closely with his loyal assistants. “Eric’s been here a few years. We can depend on Eric. And there’s Carlos, Linda and Michael and a few others who volunteer from time to time,” Smith said. “I get to know the people here. Some I see downtown or around town. A lot of them look forward to this every day.” Smith says there are different people every day and “while they’re here, they’re family—we make sure everyone’s safe.”
The area where folks eat is cozy and affords space for kids to play as they wait for dinner or for their parents to finish up. A sign on the wall reads: “IF YOU SWEAR YOU MIGHT NOT EAT,” a polite way to keep the atmosphere “family friendly.” Smith says it’s a place where people can stretch their food budget. Many of them have lost their jobs. The kitchen is also willing to work with folks who have special dietary needs.
The Pawtucket Soup kitchen is at 195 Walcott St. and is open six days a week: Monday through Friday at 4:30 pm, and Saturday’s breakfast is served at 10:30 am. If you’d like to make a donation or volunteer, call Adrienne Marchetti @ 256-3446.