by Kelsey Wojdyla
It all started in the basement of a Trenton church. The doors to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) first opened on January 13, 1982. They will be celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2012.
The soup kitchen, now located on Escher Street in Trenton, launched its first ever endowment fund campaign in April 2010. TASK had set aside $500,000 from its general use endowment fund to support the campaign. They also received full participation from its staff members and board of trustees to raise a total of over $68,000. The campaign is being led by Mara Connolly Taft and Pete Taft, and is being coordinated by Irwin Stoolmacher.
Since its initiation, there have been 214 individuals, six foundations, and six companies who have contributed to Keeping The Bowl Full. As of October 2011, TASK has raised 61% of the $2 million goal. They are hoping to reach the goal by December 2012.
All campaign proceeds will be invested in a permanent savings account to ensure the future operation of TASK. Donations can be made in the form of cash, stocks, life insurance policies, annuities, and trusts.
The government provides less than 3% of TASK’s annual operating funds, even though it is the only soup kitchen in Trenton open five days a week. In its first year alone TASK served roughly 40,000 meals to the Mercer County community. That number has since more than quadrupled, with over 3,500 meals served every week.
TASK also offers free services to its patrons “to point them in the right direction,” says J Steinhauer, Community Relations and Development Program Assistant at TASK. This includes an on-site social worker who helps around 350 people each month, and the volunteer patron services office, which is in charge of all the food and hygiene drives.
TASK has also partnered with other agencies, such as Whole Foods and the Pennington Quality Market, to be able to give away fresh produce to its patrons.
In addition, the adult education program provides volunteer tutors in literacy, math, and computer skills. Dozens of students have used these skills to enter training programs, find employment and even attend college. In fact, there have already been nine students who received their GED since July.
Overall, the Keeping The Bowl Full campaign will substantially offset annual fundraising efforts. “We won’t have to fundraise as aggressively,” says Steinhauer. It will also allow TASK to continue supporting its own A-TEAM Artists of Trenton and the SHARE project for performing arts.
TASK is currently searching for a large venue to celebrate their 30th anniversary and the success of their first campaign. This free event will take place in the summer of 2013 and will serve as an opportunity to give back to the community that has given them continuous support for all these years.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of The Wall Newspaper.