By Erin Dueñas
In order to raise funds to continue 23 years of preparing a warm and nutritious meal to those in need, the Invited INN soup kitchen of Rocky Point will host a walkathon this Saturday, April 25, at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island in Manorville.
Every Thursday, volunteers at the soup kitchen cook and serve dinner to anywhere from 40 to 70 people who come seeking a fresh-cooked meal and the companionship that comes with eating together. According to Invited INN’s Director and President Carol Moor, the soup kitchen has a “no questions asked” policy on who gets served.
“We don’t check income or anything like that, some people come just for the company. Anyone who shows up gets a meal,” she said. “Everyone who comes is treated with dignity and respect.”
According to Moor, the guests of the Invited INN are a diverse group, including seniors and families with young children, as well as single adults. Although housed in the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, the soup kitchen is ecumenical and any and all faiths are welcome to dine.
The INN, which stands for Interfaith Nutrition Network, is a nonprofit that provides food, shelter and support services to Long Island residents.
Moor said she helped start the soup kitchen more than two decades ago when she was chair of social ministries at Trinity.
“The church recognized a need for a soup kitchen,” she said. “We had the pantry, but we needed something more.”
The very first meal prepared at the Invited INN was served to just six people.
“It’s really grown since then and it’s been very successful,” Moor said. “People aren’t aware that people in their community need this kind of help.”
This is the seventh year the soup kitchen will host the walkathon, the only formal fundraiser it does throughout the year, according to Moor.
“You get a lot of bang for your buck doing a walkathon, and we tend to do very well,” Moor said. “The shrine is a beautiful place to walk and we make some money so it is really a win-win.”
Registration for the walk will begin at 10 a.m. and Moor said walkers can walk as many or as few times as they want around the shrine.
Every penny earned Saturday will go directly to providing the food prepared each Thursday. Running with no overhead and completely by volunteers, any donations the INN receives throughout the year goes solely toward buying food to prepare the weekly dinner.
Donated food items come from organizations such as Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, but the bulk of Invited INN’s monetary donations come from private donors: the congregation at Trinity, as well as from the Rocky Point Lions Club and the Rotary Club of Rocky Point.
Rotary member Tom Talbot said his organization’s intent is to provide help to people and that they enjoy giving to the Invited INN.
“The volunteers are very nice people who are so grateful for our help,” Talbot said. “They run a very important facility in Rocky Point.”
Talbot, who has volunteered at the soup kitchen as a pot washer for 10 years, said that the people who eat there seem to enjoy the meals.
“They are usually very satisfied with the food and it gives them the chance to be social too,” he said. “Some of them come early to make sure they get the same seat they have been sitting in for years.”
Trinity’s pastor Jeffrey Kolbo said that although the Invited INN is essentially a free hot meal program, he has found that it provides much more than that.
“For those who live on a limited income, money saved by eating each week at the Invited INN can be spent on other necessities,” he said. “For those who live by themselves, a night out at the INN breaks the tedium of eating alone. Our volunteers know this and do what they can to build community and feed those who come for our meals.”
To participate in the walkathon or sponsor a walker, contact Moor at 631-744-8686.