Soup and bread dinner at St. Francis de Chantal in Wantagh raises community awareness on hunger in America


A 24-year-old tradition that even surpasses many of the younger generation of the Young St. Vincentians met once more to bring comfort to the Wantagh community. Sunday, March 11,

On Sunday, March 11, the Young St. Vincentians of the Wantagh community hosted a dinner with various soups, bread and water symbolic of their blessed community.

Middle school and high school students from the Wantagh community were joined by parents, teachers and friends as they welcomed everyone to the dinner event at St. Francis de Chantal Roman Catholic Church. Each student worked hard to take soup orders, plate and fish the food and buss the tables in a timely fashion. Derek, a junior at Wantagh High School, presented a small speech dedicated to his fellow Young Vincentians for committing to making the bread and soup event possible.

Being a part of the Young Vincentians, a youth group of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, provides an opportunity for community service as early as sixth grade until twelfth grade. Students have a place they can identify with the church and also have an impact on those around them. During Thanksgiving, students put together food packages for the hungry. Recently, they hosted a Hawaiian-themed party for the special needs members of the Wantagh community with food, games and a chance to meet new people, according to Kelly, a junior at Wantagh High School.

Eleventh graders from Wantagh High School attested to the growth of friendships after joining the Young Vincentians group. Michael, a junior at Wantagh High School, said being able to give back to the less fortunate never fails to bring a smile to their faces.

“Making people happy and doing things that can help them makes me feel better. Just seeing people come to mass, it just puts a good feeling inside to know we’re making an impact,” Michael said.

Brendan Vonrunnen and Ele Melendez, organizers of the event, said they are proud of the work they've been able to accomplish toward ending world hunger and teenage hunger by providing soup kitchen style events to donate food.

“The need now has been so great and food is so expensive, you go to get your groceries and $100 now is nothing. You can't get paper goods with food stamps or detergent,” Melendez said.

After being a part of the parish for 25 years and commuting to and from the city as a woman on Wall Street, Melendez was inspired by the church to work in office to be closer with her community, and is now the director of Parish Social Ministries at St. Francis.

“I’m the in between, you tell me you have a need and I get to be the middle person, I get to see the happiness,” says Melendez. “God has given me the honor of helping.”

Vonrunnen, 25, has been a part of the parish community most of his life as a credit to his parents. He became an altar server as a young member of the church but as more time was spent with the lord and the parish family, he found those relationships blossoming on their own.

“The dinner itself is symbolic of how blessed we are as a community and to remind us not everybody is as blessed as we are and basically the dinner resembles what you would get at a soup kitchen,” said Vonrunnen.

He commended the Young Vincentians on their dedication to the community and the clear benefits he’s seen. He said the parish and the Wantagh communities are a family and take care of each other, being a blessing for one another.

Sponsors and partners of the parish who have appreciated what the church has brought to their neighborhoods donated all the bread and soup.