It’s the hungry children who break Deacon Peter Casamento’s heart. The uplifting part is that the Community Kitchen of Myrtle Beach feeds children and their parents, senior citizens and veterans as well as homeless people.
“I have witnessed a paradigm change in the face of the hungry” in the nearly two years he has been at Community Kitchen, a “very nondenominational” operation. Homeless people are “only 15 percent now” of the people who come to Community Kitchen; not long ago the homeless were about 30 percent of people eating breakfast and/or lunch at 1411 Mr. Joe White Ave. in Myrtle Beach. The Community Assistance Center is also the location of Helping Hand of Myrtle Beach.
In a letter seeking financial support, Casamento says “The face of hunger is not just the homeless person on the street, it is the working poor, our senior citizens, our veterans and children. Many do not look any different from you or I and many are highly educated people. The difference between them and us is that they are less privileged. In Horry County one in five people are hungry.”
Casamento says “the vast majority [of the people served by Community Kitchen] are trying to make their lives better – and many have jobs” but their pay is not enough to pay rent, utilities, medical expenses and food.
“All types of people come to us – it’s a privilege to serve them,” Casamento says.
The kitchen in 2014 “fed 130,774 of those who were hungry.” On a typical day this time of the year, 200 to 225 people eat breakfast at Community Kitchen; an average of 250 eat lunch. It was a recognition of the fact that many people eating breakfast were on their way to work that the Monday through Friday breakfasts were offered year round.
Prior to becoming Deacon Peter, Casamento worked in law enforcement for more than 27 years, retiring as a police captain.
“God prepared me for this,” he said.
He was a corrections officer early in his working career and “worked narcotics on the street.” Before coming to Community Kitchen, he was director of North Strand Helping Hand. His colleague, Frank Fahrer, followed Casamento at North Strand and they continue to work together.
Fahrer “has the same passion I have” for feeding the hungry.
The city of Myrtle Beach stopped funding Community Kitchen three years ago when New Directions was formed, taking over the former Street Reach and other entities providing assistance. Community Kitchen declined to be part of New Directions. The loss of city funding totaled about $75,000 over three years. Communnity Kitchen continues to receive an allocation from the United Way of Horry County. The annual operating budget is about $200,000.
Through Lowcountry Food Bank, Community Kitchen receives food from Lowes, BiLo, Kroger and Costco.
“The sky is the limit” Casamento says of the fund-raising effort. Community Kitchen’s equipment is aging and needs to be replaced. Casamento is constantly writing grant requests. Two double convection ovens will cost about $13,000, Casamento says.
“Volunteering at the kitchen is not for everybody,” so the drive for funds is an opportunity to help financially.
“I love these people – they know I love them,” he says, recalling prayers with people going to a job interview. “It’s the love that we share” that fuels Casamento’s passion for Community Kitchen. He tells volunteers at the doors, “Greet everyone as if you’re greeting Christ himself.”
[Hed]How to help
Community Kitchen of Myrtle Beach is seeking financial contributions to supports its operation and help replace aging equipment. The nonprofit no longer receives support from the city of Myrtle Beach.
▪ Online | www.communitykitchenmb.org Credit cards may be used to make contributions. The revamped site has general information about Community Kitchen.
▪ Mail | Community Kitchen of Myrtle Beach, P.O. Box 563, Myrtle Beach, SC 29578
▪ email | firstname.lastname@example.org
▪ Phone | 843-444-9383