20,000 sandwiches for hunger

A gooey, smooth, starchy milestone has been surpassed.

It started as a service project for a nearby church’s confirmation class and morphed into more than 20,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Cathedral Kitchen in Camden.

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According to parent Lee Pease, “Luke Pease, Patrick Porter, Jeff Sabatini, Patrick Sea and Tommy Brophy, juniors at Haddonfield Memorial High School, have been spreading peanut butter and jelly for four years.”

Nowadays, twice a month, neighbors and friends join the five teens, who were confirmed in May 2010 at their church, in producing the sandwiches.

Pease purchases the ingredients from Wegmans, which generally has the best deals, he explained, though sometimes Ziploc bags can be bought for cheaper at CostCo.

Each sandwich making session requires 28 loaves of bread, 15 pounds of peanut butter and 15 pounds of jelly and amounts in 308 sandwiches for those in need.

In all, it costs about $65 for each grocery trip, though the price of peanut butter has risen.

“It really helps us,” said Colleen Rini, development director at Cathedral Kitchen.

The sandwiches are placed in take-home bags for guests to the kitchen to provide for a next-day meal or for the person to pass along to someone else in need, Rini said, along with other donations of canned goods that were not used in the day’s hot meal.

The service facility is located on Federal Street and serves approximately 9,000 hot meals a month from Mondays to Saturdays, which amounts to about 400 people being served daily on average.

According to its website, “The people who come to the Kitchen to eat are among the poorest residents of the city (of Camden): the homeless, the jobless, those with disabilities or addiction problems, the working poor. They range in age from infants to the elderly; but whatever their age, everyone in need is welcomed at the Kitchen and given a hearty meal.”

There is also a culinary arts training program as well as a dental and medical clinic on site, said Rini.

At the Pease home, sandwich duties are split between volunteers.

One room mans jelly, another peanut butter. Another group puts them together, cuts them and puts them in bags.

The five boys have rarely missed a production day.

“They do have fun getting together,” said Pease. “It’s been a good experience.”

While the group has produced more than 20,000 sandwiches since beginning their efforts, they are not ready to zip their last bag shut just yet.

The goal is to reach 30,000 sandwiches by June 2014, which is when the five teens will graduate from high school, said Pease.

“It’s nice that they’re still doing it into their fourth year now,” he said.

Currently, they are on target to reach their goal on time.

“We’ve always stressed service with the boys,” he said, explaining that the project has helped them learn to help those in need.

“You can do good works and you can still have fun doing it,” he added.

It takes roughly an hour to produce the sandwiches with usually a range of 12 to 15 volunteers involved in a night.

About 40 people in the community have, at one point or another, volunteered with the effort, Pease said.

“It’s been nice to reach out to the neighbors and keep them involved,” he said.

Cathedral Kitchen still needs help from the surrounding community.

“They still need volunteers to help serve the dinners,” Pease said.

And in a Haddonfield home, the production line continues, though it is not monotonous.

Pease chooses another word.

“It’s fun,” he said.

Want to help?

If interested in aiding in the homegrown project, whether with donations of bread, peanut butter, grape jelly, Ziploc bags, or by providing funds, contact Lee and Beth Pease at lpease1@comcast.net or Alex Wills with Cathedral Kitchen at alex@cathedralkitchen.org.

To learn more about the kitchen or to make a direct donation, visit www.cathedralkitchen.org, call (856) 964–6771 or email volunteer@cathedralkitchen.org.

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