The bustling dining room will give anyone who enters both a warm welcome as well as a hot meal. The free lunch is available at Face to Face Friday through Monday at 12:30. Located on Price Street just a block East of Germantown Ave., the institution is far more than just a soup kitchen and offers social services, legal counseling, free showers and toiletries as well as basic healthcare to anyone in need. An afterschool program and a summer camp offer constructive activities to kids in the area, and an art program lets adults express themselves through different mediums.
“From the people who volunteer to the people who come into eat, I really do meet the entire spectrum of society,” said Joshua Skinner, the dining room manager who makes sure a meal is on the table and everything is going smoothly.
Volunteers and clients alike feel themselves drawn to Face to Face for different reasons. Several of the volunteers are retired and find volunteering to be a constructive use of their free time. Others, like Nadine Mansin, chose to volunteer because how Face to Face has affected them personally.
“I come here to eat, but also volunteer,” Mansin said while filling plastic cups with iced tea. “You have to give back. We can’t have all chiefs and no indians.”
Beverly Treadwell also feels that volunteering is important because of how Face to Face has benefited her.
“Everytime I come here I feel like I need to volunteer,” Treadwell said.
Marie McCabe, director of operations, thinks that having guests volunteer is a special and important part of how the organization works.
“We invite people to come here and use our services, and we encourage them to help set up for dinner or help clean up from dinner or wash the floors or whatever and they will help us. I think that means that they get ownership by doing those things for us. Everyone wins with that,” said McCabe.
Mary Ann Coreri, 79, thinks Face to Face’s services are crucial to to elderly.
“Old people are starving. Where do they go? How do they live? Soup kitchens are a great savior,” said Coeri.
In addition to the meal, Face to Face’s facilities are also used for an after school program and a summer camp. Reggie Miller, a gym teacher at nearby Leeds Middle School who ran both of these programs, says Face to Face has given him an opportunity and a structure to benefit kids in his neighborhood.
“Life is about experience. The more you experience, the more you know,” Miller explained. “The more you know, the more you reach out and try to grab.” Because he believes this, Miller thinks that it’s important for his students to experience a variety of opportunities He takes students on college tours and tries to get them outside of their own neighborhood. What Miller thinks is most important is having students learn from other students by being exposed to people who are a little different from them.
“ I try to match kids that have opportunity with kids that don’t and see what they can teach each other,” Miller said.
Another important part of Face to Face’s outreach is its legal center. According to legal center director Niki Ludt, most cases involve getting financial benefits or trying to obtain identification.
“A lot of clients don’t know that they are disabled and could be collecting disability benefits so we help them along with that process,” legal intern John Murphy said. The legal center relies on a volunteer staff of attorneys and law student interns. Currently the office has three interns.
“It’s important to have a legal clinic in the neighborhood because our client might not have the money to take a bus downtown to try to get legal services down there,” Ludt said. Being able to walk to get help takes away an extra step that would discourage people who have been cut off from their welfare or disability from seeking help to get back onto it.
“These clients have need-driven lives,” said Ludt. “Basically what they’re trying to do is have their basic needs satisfied.” Ludt is thankful that Face to Face meets more than just one need. By becoming a hub that provides lots of different resources, the organization can solve problems more efficiently than if each of its services were offered by separate entities. Last summer, Ludt was helping a woman get her water turned back on after it was shut off because her bills were unpaid. During the case, the woman was able to shower and clean her clothes at Face to Face’s washateria. Similarly, Grover Freeland started going to Face to Face 10 years ago when he was hit by a car and broke his leg. First he went for health services, but learned to take advantage of meals and art classes as well.