Preparing a meal for someone is often seen as an act of love, so when volunteers gathered last week to prepare more than 600, it showed they were truly passionate about helping those in need.
About 20 volunteers from La Famiglia Dei Fratelli went to Caring for Friends’ kitchen and distribution center at 12271 Townsend Road last week to prepare meatloaf, sweet potato and broccoli rabe meals. The 640 meals were delivered to the elderly who could not leave their homes with instructions to provide them with a good home-cooked meal.
La Famiglia Dei Fratelli has been preparing meals for Caring for Friends (formerly Aid for Friends) twice a year for 30 years, trying to put together 600 to 700 meals each time. The lodge’s mission statement is family, service and education.
“It’s a labor of love for us,” said lodge president Anthony “Tony” Coco.
The lodge is active in providing food to those in need, cooking dinners at the Gift of Life House four times a year or providing sandwiches to veterans at Veterans Multi-Service Center in Center City. They also prepare Thanksgiving baskets for churches to give to families in need.
“There’s 640 people that are going to get a nice dinner through our work, and we couldn’t think of a better organization to help support,” Coco said.
It’s volunteer events like this that have kept Caring for Friends going for 45 years, said executive chairman Vince Schiavone. Schiavone’s mother Rita founded the nonprofit after she visited a friend who was handicapped and couldn’t cook for herself. She would cook seven meals a week and deliver them to her friend.
“Seniors today are having to choose between medicine and food,” Schiavone said. There are also areas of the city like Kensington and Frankford that have a scarce amount of supermarkets for them to shop at, he said.
Caring for Friends delivers its meals and also gives them to more than 100 food cupboards that pick up meals from the site weekly. It will also prepare casseroles for places such as the Hub of Hope in Philadelphia and other locations to help feed the homeless, seniors, people who are disabled and more across the Greater Philadelphia area.
“Ninety percent of meals never touch our location here,” Schiavone said. There are organizations in every neighborhood that deliver to people close by.
The organization was named Aid for Friends until last year. Since its inception, it’s served more than 14,000 homebound and isolated individuals with more than 16,000 volunteers. This year 2 million pounds of food will pass through the center and be distributed to food cupboards, Schiavone said.
Caring for Friends has been at the Parkwood facility for 22 years. The 30,000-square-foot facility can hold 500,000 pounds of food at one time.
“There’s a lot of food, there’s a lot of friends, and there’s a lot of people who need it,” Schiavone said.