Harrison House Diner raises $20,000 to feed the hungry
Harrison House Diner owner Constantine Benas decided six years ago to put a donation jar on the eatery’s counter to collect donations for struggling families.
“A thief came in and stole the jar,” he recalled. “It made the news on Channel 6 (TV). After that, the money came back in tenfold, thanks to the generosity of our customers.”
Since that day, Benas – whose father George opened the Mullica Hill diner in 1986 at the intersection of routes 322 and 45 – has collected $20,000 in donations, money that will help Your Place At The Table (YPATT) ensure people in the township – as well as Mantua, Elk, East Greenwich and South Harrison – have enough to eat.
“Your continued support has helped us distribute food to 4,000 families,” YPATT Director Kristen Skrobanek told Benas during a recent morning celebration at the diner to mark the monetary milestone.
“It is awesome how much money this donation jar has raised,” said Laura Guth of Mullica Hill. She and her husband, Bob were among the many YPATT food pantry volunteers in attendance at the diner.
“It is astounding how a little jar on a counter generated this much generosity from the community,” noted Mullica Hill resident and YPATT Vice President Nancy Mittleman.
“We use the money to purchase additional food when we run low, and to purchase fresh produce, milk and eggs,” she explained. “During the pandemic, we opened our doors to everyone. Now, there is even a great need with the increase in the cost of groceries.
“We see more individuals we have never seen before.”
Mullica Hill Mayor Lou Manzo also praised Benas and his family.
“You and the entire YPATT team are legendary now,” he said, adding the diner has been a great place for municipal meetings since it opened.
“Our dad told us in life to ‘do what you can to help others and always give back to the community,’” remembered Benas, noting that his father is now 72 years young.
The family business was started by Benas’ grandfather Constantinos, with the opening of P&B Diner in Glassboro. The eatery was moved to its current location in 1986 and renamed the Harrison House Diner. The family philosophy of giving back moved along with it.
The YPATT food pantry is located at Trinity United Methodist Church, 284 Cedar Road, in Mullica Hill. For information on how to donate or how struggling families can get help, go to www.ypatt.org or call (609) 202-0015.