Open Door Soup Kitchen & Grocery Bag Program

Open Door Soup Kitchen & Grocery Bag Program

Harvard University awarded the Open Door Soup Kitchen & Grocery Bag Program at the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church funds through the Harvard University Allston-Brighton Emergency Response Grant Program to support their efforts to help the community.

For more than 30 years, the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church (HROC) in Allston has provided hot, healthy meals to those in need each Monday night through its Open Door Soup Kitchen. Following a nutritious four course meal, those in attendance are given a grocery bag of supplies allowing them to prepare meals for themselves throughout the week. The largely volunteer led effort has historically served on average anywhere from 70-85 meals per week and provided each family with a bag of groceries as well. This average has steadily climbed as a result of the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on members of the community.

“We are not a wealthy church in terms of money, but we are wealthy in love,” says volunteer and HROC board members Margarita Karovska. “Our mission is to help feed the hungry, to help people in need.”

To assist with these growing needs, the Open Door Soup Kitchen and Grocery Bag Program was awarded funding from the Harvard University Allston-Brighton Emergency Grant Program to help purchase food.

Despite the pandemic, Karovska’s passion for the work remains undeterred. She says she’s incredibly grateful for the volunteers who ensure the program can continue, for the support the church received from Harvard’s emergency grant, and for the leaders of the church. She specifically mentions Father Patrick Tishel, Will Raiman, and Helen Bellinger as essential to continuing the program during the pandemic while she was unable to be at the church in person due to social distancing.

“I’m thankful for the volunteers, dedicated people working to stuff the bags and prepare the food,” she says. “The volunteers come from our church, but also the neighborhood and local colleges. They have a great zeal and are gentle, kind, and empathetic people.”

While COVID-19 has seen the church’s client base grow, it has also taken a toll on donations with restaurants closed that would typically contribute food. It’s also required some of their committed volunteers to stay home to stay healthy and safe.

When asked what inspired her about the people the program serves and the people who volunteer their time, Karovska took a beat and as she started to answer, stopped and said, “come and see.” She noted that being able to take part in the Open Door Soup Kitchen fills her with so much joy that it was almost unexplainable.

“You see our guests and it gives you energy. It gives you energy and a desire [to do even more],” she said.

The program has continued operations, albeit in a different way. Instead of visitors sitting together in the church’s common room, meals are now prepared, boxed up by volunteers, and distributed from the church’s front porch. With the number of guests nearly doubling since COVID-19 the church is committed to continuing its program to help meet community needs.

To learn more about the program, interested parties may visit the HROC website.