Young mouths will have to look elsewhere for food after a Harrisburg soup kitchen was vandalized and forced to close for a week.
Johatha “Miss Chuckie” Palmer’s jaw dropped when she opened the doors to the St. Francis of Assisi Soup Kitchen Tuesday morning.
"II just couldn't believe it,” Palmer said. It's just everywhere."
Blanketed by bad behavior, a white powder covered every inch of the soup kitchen on Zarker Street. Sodium bicarbonate, the dry powder from a fire extinguisher, coated tables, utensils, spices, ovens and food.
"I don't know whether to scream or cry,” Palmer said. “I just can't believe this."
Palmer believes kids hid in the stairwell after the kitchen closed Monday afternoon. She said the door jamb near the men’s bathroom was busted off the hinge. Kitchen workers found two empty fire extinguishers; one tossed in a urinal.
Harrisburg police confirmed the break in, but did not have additional details.
"These kids, they have no respect for anything,” Palmer said. “That bothers me more than anything because respect is free."
She said the lack of respect has reared its ugly head as of late. Palmer said young teens have been having food fights in the soup kitchen and trashed the dining hall this summer.
"Since school got out, it's just terrible,” she said. “I threatened to put them on bread and water."
There isn’t even that to hand out, according to Palmer. Loaves of bread that once stacked a shelf is wasted, and even packaged food like applesauce and granola bars are covered in chemicals and must be thrown out.
Particles floated in the air as the taste of aluminum lay on the tongue. Attempts to wash, sweep and clean were met with an overwhelming emotion of disgust and heartbreak; not because of the damage, but because Palmer and her crew were forced to turn away hungry bellies at the worst time of the month.
"Our busiest time! The busiest time!” Palmer stomped in frustration. “They're going to have to go somewhere else to eat."
Palmer said after food stamps and monthly budgets run dry, more than 200 people a day turn to her soup kitchen for food. The kitchen found out late Tuesday that a professional cleaning service will help restore the kitchen, but the work will continue until at least Monday.
Palmer said the painstaking task of not feeding people is the high cost of closing due to a cheap thrill.
"To me, nobody should be hungry,” she said, “but unfortunately, a lot of people are going to be hungry."
Tuesday, September 16 2014 11:03 PM EDT2014-09-17 03:03:04 GMT
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