Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Northampton is fortunate to have MANNA Soup Kitchen

To the editor:

As the painful aftermath of hurricane Sandy continues to challenge the storm survivors and their devastated communities across New York City and New Jersey, the goodwill, charity and cooperation that has characterized the response to this disaster may have the most profound impact on the immediate recovery, as displaced families struggle to regain their footing and dignity amidst the harsh realities of this brutal environmental catastrophe.

Biblical scripture offers lessons to these same challenges as recounted in the Old Testament. In the Book of Exodus, it is written that after leaving Egypt, the Israelites faced starvation during their sojourn in the desert wilderness searching for the promised land. They were ultimately saved from imminent demise by the delivery of food from the heavens. They called it manna, and like frost the food miraculously appeared on the ground in the morning. The Israelites collected the manna and baked it into sweet-tasting cakes, thus sustaining their livelihood and future.

Here in Northampton, manna is actually a true-to-life miracle of sorts. Manna Soup Kitchen Inc., has served this community for more than 20 years as the aptly-named church-sponsored meal program for the less-affluent population of the city. Three times a week at several downtown churches, a free, hot meal is prepared and served by dedicated volunteers under the leadership of the program’s director, Robert Saalfrank, who is affectionately known to his constituents as Bob Manna.

Bob’s heroic example is important because his is a calling that he carries forth quietly without fanfare as his faithful and ceaseless labor helps to keep so many deserving souls from going hungry. Wearing the multiple hats of administrator, cook and mealtime minister, Bob soldiers on week after week as an unsung champion of the poor and dispossessed of the city.

With the longtime sponsorship of Edwards Church, St. John’s Episcopal Church and the recent addition of The First Churches of Northampton as the new venue for the outdoor Cathedral in the Night service on Sunday evenings, the Manna meal program continues to make a deeply heartfelt and meaningful difference in our community. Next week, Manna will sponsor its annual Thanksgiving meal at Edwards Church with a home delivery meal service available for the elderly and disabled people living throughout Hampshire County. Northampton is truly fortunate in this regard to be graced by the generous charity of our downtown churches along with the enduring and tireless efforts of Manna’s director and supporting volunteers.

Martin Jones

Northampton

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