Friday, April 25, 2008

Firefighters’ group does its part to extinguish hunger

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
— In tough financial times, unexpected pennies from heaven, or in this case, unexpected dollars from the Fire Department, can help feed the hungry at local soup kitchens.
Four city soup kitchens and a homeless shelter got some unsolicited assistance this week from an organization that is relatively obscure outside the fire service.
Not many people in the general public may have heard of the New Haven Firemen’s Benevolent Association, a fraternal organization of city fire officers founded more than 150 years ago to financially support firefighters’ widows and injured firefighters and their families, and to promote goodwill and a positive public image of the profession.
The soup kitchens and a historic downtown church got recent calls from the fire marshal’s office, but it wasn’t for fire code violations.
The benevolent association donated $200 each this week to the Community Soup Kitchen, 84 Broadway; Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, 311 Temple St.; Beulah Heights Soup Kitchen, 782 Orchard St.; Immanuel Baptist Soup Kitchen, 1324 Chapel St., and St. Mary’s Church, 5 Hillhouse Ave., on behalf of the Columbus House shelter.
“We know that times are tough. There are a lot of people going hungry these days and we want to do whatever we can to help you,” said Assistant Fire Chief Ron Dumas during an informal gathering at fire headquarters.
The benevolent association has been around since 1849 and is comprised of about 80 fire department officers. It meets once a year, in December, to select to whom to give money. The nonprofit organization funds its charity through donations and investments.
“This is more than just a check,” said Bethany Watkins, the director of the Immanuel soup kitchen, which serves about 100 meals every Sunday. Immanuel Baptist just lost its patriarch, the Rev. Curtis Cofield.
“This is just perfect timing to keep his memory alive. Reverend Cofield has done a lot for this city.”
The Community Soup Kitchen is the oldest soup kitchen in New Haven, serving breakfast and lunch five days a week since 1977 and nearly 60,000 last year.
“This came completely out of the blue. We got a phone call the other day saying, ‘We want to help you,’” said coordinator David O’Sullivan.
“Soup kitchen is a misnomer because we serve a full-course meal,” said President Lucille Alderman, clarifying the record.
Ironically, O’Sullivan added, “We never serve soup.”

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