City of Orange Wants it Closed: Mary’s Kitchen Serves More Than Food as it Adapts to Pandemic – Cerritos Community News
MAKING SALADS behind masked smiles are (front l-r) Mary’s Kitchen worker Paul Triguero, CEO/President Gloria Suess and worker Vincent Lu while worker Michelle Barker (rear left) looks on. The nonprofit out of Orange feeds the hungry homeless six days a week and has been doing so for more than 35 years.
Editor’s Note: The city of Orange recently sent a letter terminating Mary’s lease three years early citing dubious reasons. We are re-posting our story from Sept. 2020.
Orange City Manager: [email protected]
Orange City Council: [email protected]
BY LAURIE HANSON • September 5, 2020
(Orange, Ca.) ~ Serving up meals with dignity, Mary’s Kitchen in Orange helps the most vulnerable in society while adapting to meet their ever-present and increasing need during COVID-19.
For more than 35 years, the nonprofit serves “guests” from all over Orange County and beyond with hot meals six days a week and other services. With on-going planning and adjustments, they continue to serve the homeless, the mentally ill and others in need despite the coronavirus pandemic.
“The main need [we’ve seen] since the beginning of the pandemic is [providing] a place to eat the packaged breakfasts and hot lunches,” said CEO/President Gloria Suess. “Since they can only come in to pick up the packages and go back outside to eat, [many] hang around outside until the next meal is provided. Hopefully, we will soon be able to have distanced seating for the mealtimes. We’ve purchased an electrostatic sprayer to sanitize everything.”
Guess went on to explain that many of their “guests” can meet the rent, but run short on their food budget, something Mary’s Kitchen happily helps with. For now, all food is boxed in “to go” containers, while all those served must wear masks, use hand sanitizer, and enter five at a time for social distancing. All staff wears gloves, masks and have their temperatures checked as well.
“Mental illness is such a huge problem among the homeless, and what’s the solution?” said Suess. “I make it my mission every day is to serve the less fortunate, to try to make their day and life a little more comfortable, and to give them a true sense of value. I hope they may be able to take care of themselves and have a sense of being worthy of all that God gives them.”
Services at Mary’s Kitchen include breakfast, hot lunch, and a lunch to go. They also give out food boxes to those who have access to a microwave, a stove and refrigerator. Every Thursday, clothing is distributed 10 guests at a time for 10 minutes, with a second entry allowed. The showers are currently closed due to COVID. Guests can receive their mail at the nonprofit. A separate fund called “Mary’s Purse” also directly helps “guests” with incidental expenses like gas for their cars, eye prescriptions that insurance does not cover, phone bills, necessary clothing, storage rent, rarely motel rooms, a one way bus ticket back home, or when a few dollars makes a huge difference in their lives, according to Suess.
It was in 1984, that an 82-year-old woman named Mary McAnena found her “calling” and first helped a homeless woman in Hart Park in Orange.
“We started out as Hart for the People, working out of Mary’s home and driving meals to the park, feeding the homeless there,” said Suess. “We continued there until 1995 when our numbers of homeless guests were 200, and we had complaints from neighbors in the area. With the help from the City of Orange, we leased land, and we were re-named Mary’s Kitchen.”
Guess started to help Mary in 1988. At the time, she was a real estate broker holding an open house on her street when Mary came in and looked around. Mary introduced herself and Suess already knew of her from reading about her in the local newspaper. Mary recruited her to help, and at the time Suess thought it would be a once a week commitment.
“Ha! Thirty-two years later, I’m here six days a week,” said Suess.
“This is where God wants me to be,” she continued. “He shows me every day when I listen to the stories of our guests and the sadness of their situation. I try to lift them up with hope and encouragement, to give them a sense of human dignity that they are valued.”
Mary’s Kitchen receives no state or federal funding. They are supported through individual and company donations. Donations can be made to Mary’s Kitchen or to Mary’s Purse. For more information on ways to donate or volunteer, please visit online at www.maryskitchen.org.
Mary’s Kitchen is located at 517 W. Struck Ave. Orange, CA 92867, for monetary donation please send to Mary’s Kitchen P.O. Box 4247 Orange, CA 92863-4247.
Material Donations to Mary’s Kitchen are very much appreciated as well. They can also use: Socks (new), Underwear (new), Back Packs, Shoes, Razors, Toiletries (travel size), Cleaning Supplies, Sleeping Bags, Jeans/Jackets, Bicycles, OCTA Bus Passes 1-day passes, Hair Accessories, Hair Brushes (Small), Hair Care Products, Moisturizers (After Wash), Colognes, and Prepaid Gift Cards.
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