The Free Meal Center
PO Box 863
1206 Route 9 South
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
UPDATE June 21, 2013 - There is significance to this posting being on the first day of summer. That's because we are finally expecting our full funding to arrive this summer.
It's been a long wait. All of the Board of Directors are frustrated, you are frustrated, and hungry families are especially frustrated. We never thought it would take this long to get The Free Meal Center up and running. But the bottom line is that TFMC will become a reality. Isn't that what we all want? We know that many locals have lost faith in us completing our mission. That's okay. You can jump back on our bandwagon real soon.
The implications of the coming large donation are exciting. We will have sufficient funds to 1.) purchase the Route 9 property outright with no mortgage, 2.) pay for all the building renovations plus all the contractors, and 3.) have enough money left to get the food operation off the ground. We will be in an enviable position that few non-profits share in these times of tight purse strings.
We have hired a highly-reputable local General Contractor to oversee the construction. This company has restaurant building experience and will be a considerable asset in getting the renovation stage completed. We're excited!
On another note: Since Day One, a certain local newspaper has been the head cheerleader rooting for The Free Meal Center to fail. It continues to publish erroneous tirades by uniformed (and mostly anonymous) malcontents. These finger pointers are an insult to the Board of Directors who have put hundreds of hours apiece into TFMC and the hundreds of volunteers who have given us sweat equity working on the property. None of these "authors" has ever approached us to ask how TFMC is progressing. Instead they lash out at us via the internet and one media outlet after drawing conclusions that are blatantly false. If you have any questions about TFMC, feel free to give one of the BOD members a call. We'll bring you up to snuff and allay your fears. Thanks.
December 30, 2012 - While we continue to patiently wait for our funding to arrive, the last nine months have still been productive. The Board of Directors meets regularly. We have been able to focus on the actual day-to-day operation of the facility, something we couldn't accomplish when burdened with the task of daily coordination of building renovations and upgrades.
We have been focused on three areas of operation. The first is hiring an Executive Director to oversee the daily operation. We will be looking to bring that person on board within 4-6 weeks of receiving our funding. Our compensation package will include a salary, percentage of granting obtained, and if necessary, housing. We are looking for a person dedicated to our cause who is concerned with helping people and prepared to have this job consume their time. We prefer someone with a college degree, perhaps from Stockton, Rowan, or ACCC, though we are flexible. During renovations, office space will be provided in Wildwood Crest and office assistants will be provided by WorkForce 55+, which pays their salaries. The ED position will be funded by our benefactor and folk's donations will not be used. As always, 100% of donations will go toward our mission.
The other paid position we will be filling is that of a General Contractor for the renovations. We're looking for a local licensed contractor that can oversee the 4-6 months of renovations. Experience with a commercial kitchen is a plus, and we hope to fill that position within 2-3 weeks of receiving our funding. We will be using most of the previously-volunteer subcontractors, who will also now be paid for their services. The GC will be coordinating architecture/engineering plans, permitting, inspections, subcontractors, and completing the actual carpentry work and obtaining building supplies. Again, the benefactor will be paying for all these professionals and supplies.
The third point of our focus has been training, training manuals, and procedures for our volunteers and paid employees. We will be conducting a training session for each position so that our volunteers and paid workers can act with compassion and professionalism. Our paid positions, besides the ED, will be four cooks, two security people, and 2-3 office assistants, for a total of 9-10 jobs. The cooks and security positions are funded by another government agency that helps get folks training for quality careers.
TFMC will be advertising to fill the paid Executive Director and General Contractor positions as soon as we receive our funding.
The Free Meal Center fell short of its goal of raising $50,000 by March 31st, 2012 so the owner has forced us to vacate the premises as of April 1st. It's not the end of our journey.
Our plan now is to wait for our benefactor to come into their funds, then submit a new offer on the 2.36 acre property with the 4,275 square foot building. Since the property was on the market many years before we came along, we fully expect it to be available for us to purchase once our full funding arrives. Our benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has pledged to pay the entire cost of the property - about $300,000 - and then fund the renovations.
Everything will work out and The Free Meal Center will become a reality. We're determined, and undaunted. Someday soon TFMC will be feeding hundreds of hungry, less fortunate families every day.
The Free Meal Center is a secular, non-profit, charitable organization, operated by five Board of Director members and a network of compassionate volunteers, and funded by donations and grants.
Our mission is to provide nutritious, free, on-site meals in Cape May County, New Jersey to anyone who walks through our doors in a manner that preserves and enhances the dignity of each individual. Volunteers and organizations may offer information and advice concerning finances, housing, health and nutrition, and job and career needs to willful participants.
The Free Meal Center (TFMC) is a group of local business people and caring citizens filling a void in the county by offering free, nutritious meals without conditions. We still intend to purchase a former restaurant at 1206 Route 9 South in Burleigh, Middle Township. The 4,275 square-foot facility, situated on 2.36 acres, has two dining rooms, four restrooms, a large kitchen area, and parking for about 50 cars. It’s centrally located in the county and easy to find.
TFMC is established as a secular, non-profit, charitable organization that is incorporated in the State of New Jersey. It's the first-ever, daily soup kitchen in Cape May County. We’ll initially offer lunch Monday through Saturday, with breakfast also on Saturdays. Our on-site volunteers will treat our “guests” with respect and dignity. Our meals are open to everyone and we won’t even ask their names. We hope our donors and the curious public will stop by to have a meal and view our operation first-hand.
Beside the volunteer Board of Directors, TFMC will have three divisions of volunteers: 1.) at the site to help in the kitchen, serve food, and clean up; 2.) to make daily phone calls to restaurants and grocery stores and food pantries to get food donations and then have them picked up by a driver volunteer; and 3.) to solicit monetary donations through enjoyable fundraisers. Each of the three divisions (Site, Food, Donations) will have a Volunteer Leader, who will in turn work under a Board of Director member.
The only paid positions at TFMC will be four cooks, who will each prepare the meals three days per week. A government agency is paying their salaries and workmens comp, so we will not have any employee expenses. The cooks will give the kitchen the continuity it needs to be efficient and successful. Another government-funded agency is giving us four employees, one of who is already manning the office. Volunteers and those performing “community service” can assist the cooks. We’re initially expecting about 300 folks per meal, which should eventually top out at 350 or so. We’ll serve the meals buffet style and guests can come back for seconds and thirds as long as the food lasts. Lunch hours are 11:30am to 1:00pm and the Saturday breakfast is 7:30 to 9:00am. We expect to have extended hours on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day, and Easter.
TFMC is attempting to fill a missing link in the county. Cape May County has 42,000 yearround families, of which 4,000 households live under the poverty line ($22,050 for 4) and another 9,500 households have social security as their sole source of income. The county unemployment rate is currently hovering during the winter months around 17.6% and when added to those who have basically given up ever finding gainful employment, the jobless rate approaches 35%.
We will be serving appetizing and nutritious meals on-site. We will always serve a hot soup and salad at lunch, plus a main entrée, vegetable, and fruit. Beverages will be milk and juices. We will avoid unhealthy ingredients like sugar and salt when cooking and we won’t have deep-fried foods. Staying on track with health, the entire 2.36 acre property will be designated tobacco-free, just like most school grounds.
While the recession years of 2008 and 2009 have affected all of us, those on the lower end of the economic ladder are especially hard hit. Three years later, conditions haven't noticably improved. This is our chance to make a big difference in their lives. Your donations not only help us feed them, but it helps restore their faith in humankind.
Please listen to your heart and make a generous tax deductible donation to The Free Meal Center.
We also need volunteers for all three of our Volunteer Divisions. If you have some free time that you would like to put toward helping us out, let us know. We will also be doing fundraisers, such as car washes, bake sales, yard sales and such, so we’d love to have youth, civic, and senior groups, plus individuals, jump on board and help with an event. To find out more about volunteering, call TFMC at 609-522-5733 or Douglas Jewell at 609-780-7129
Thank you from TFMC Board of Directors – Douglas Jewell, Burgess "Butch" Hamer, Joyce Jewell, Bobbie Greenwood, and Charlotte Bohan – and the many compassionate volunteers who make a difference.
We are on Facebook and that popular site is now updated at least weekly by Susan Van Rossum. At last count, the newly created TFMC page had over 240 Friends. You can view our Facebook page by scrolling to the bottom of this page.
February 21 - Channel 40 News feature on Sunday night after Olympic coverage.
February 23 - 98.7 The Coast radio news clip all day long.
February 24 - Front page article by Editor Al Campbell in Cape May County Herald, plus Editor's column "Compass Points".
February 26 - Talked on Don Williams Show on WOND radio and simulcast on Channel 40.
March 3 - Front page article by Editor Nancy Rump in Cape May County Gazette
March 4 - New Jersey Monthly internet article by Jen Miller
March 5 - Atlantic City Press article by Debra Rech in all three "Region" sections
March 7 - Philadelphia Inquirer article by Jacqueline Urgo in Sunday "South Jersey" section
March 8 - Appeared on 10-minute segment of "The Morning Wake-Up with Mark and Bob" on 98.7 The Coast radio
March 8 - Feature story by Phaedra Laird on NBC 40 nightly news at 5:00, 5:30, and 6:00
April 24 - Film footage and interviews conducted by Dan Carrigan at the Saturday workday appeared on the 11pm News on NBC-40
April 28 - Article and pictures by Editor Al Campbell in Cape May County Herald newspaper about the April 24 workday
April 29 - Article and pictures by Managing Editor Christopher South in Cape May Star & Wave newspaper about April 24 workday
May 12 - Article by Kristi Funderburk in Vineland Daily Journal newspaper about Buena 8th grader Mick Knapp raising money to buy letters for the main sign along Route 9
May 13 - Front Page article by Mary Linehan in Middle Township Gazette newspaper about the May 15th workday and TFMC progress
June 8 - P.E.A.S. Magazine article
June 23 - Picture in Cape May County Herald of The Home Depot manager Matt Peterson presenting check representing $10,000 in donations of materials to TFMC's Joyce & Douglas Jewell
August 12 - Board of Director members Burgess "Butch" Hamer and Douglas Jewell appeared on Jim MacMillan's morning show on WCMC 1230AM radio from 8am to 9am.
August 14 - Article in Press of Atlantic City newspaper by Ben Leach about that day's Outdoor Work Day, plus updated information about TFMC.
August 18 - Five color-picture spread by Middle Township Gazette photographer Jen Arthur of August 14th Outdoor Work Day.
August 18 - Picture in Bright Side newspaper of Greater Cape May Elks Lodge 2839 head Barbara Mahon presenting check for $500 to TFMC's Joyce & Douglas Jewell.
September 1 - Picture in Cape May County Herald of Cape May Association of Realtors' Carol Anderson and Jeanette DiNardo presenting check for $4,700 for red quarry floor tile to TFMC's Joyce & Douglas Jewell.
September 9 - Jim MacMillan has Douglas Jewell talking about The Free Meal Center on his morning radio show on WCMC 1230AM.
September 28 - Phaedra Laird of NBC-40 TV in Atlantic City interviews Douglas Jewell about the progress of TFMC and carpentry teacher Michael McCarthy of the CMC Special Services School about his class helping with preparing the building for renovations, for the 6 o'clock news.
September 29 - Press of Atlantic City newspaper article on poverty in South Jersey interviews Douglas Jewell on the impact in Cape May County.
November 24 - Press of Atlantic City newspaper article by Eliza Lala on Hometown section front page, with photos by Dan Martin.
November 24 - Middle Township Gazette newspaper article by Mary Linehan on current status of TFMC.
November 24 - Cape May County Herald newspaper Letter to the Editor by the Board of Directors detailing TFMC's progress and fundraising efforts.
December 1 - Cape May County Herald newspaper article by copy editor Joan Nash in the Business section titled, "What's New at The Free Meal Center?"
December 8 - Press of Atlantic City newspaper article by Elisa Lala in Hometown section titled, "Free Meal Center in Burleigh has permit, can start work on interior".
April 7 - Middle Township Gazette article by Mary Linehan about the upcoming Outdoor Work Day, plus an update about the ongoing rehabilitation of the building and grounds.
April 28 - Film footage and interviews by NBC-40 TV's Dan Carrigan on the scene of the robbery of TFMC's 24-foot aluminum handicap ramp.
April 29 - Press of Atlantic City newspaper article by Michael Miller about the pilfering of our handicap ramp.
April 29 - Film footage and interview by WPVI ABC Channel 6 in Philadelphia's Nora Muchanic about stealing the handicap ramp and other metals from TFMC.
May 5 - Article by Middle Township Gazette editor Bill Barlow about the theft and how TFMC is progressing.
May 6 - Press of Atlantic City editorial concerning recent thefts and our mission.
May 12 - NBC-40 film footage on the evening news of Keller William Realty's work day at TFMC.
May 18 - Article by Elisa Lala in the Hometown section of the Press of Atlantic City about the "Give Where You Live" work day by Keller Williams Realty where a dozen agents gave their day to working on clearing roots and debris from the picnic grove.
May 18 - Article by Martin DeAngelis in the Life section of the Press of Atlantic City about the upcoming wine and dinner benefit at the Hawk Haven Vineyards of Kenna and Todd Wuerker. Proceeds go to the Free Meal Center.
May 31 - NBC-40 film footage on the evening news of the ceremonial laying of the first block at TFMC by Middle Township Mayor Susan Atkinson DeLanzo and committeemen Nate Doughty and Dan Lockwood.
June 1 - Press of Atlantic City front page newspaper article by Rich Degener about the ceremonial laying of the first block for the rehabilitated kitchen.
June 2 - Middle/Dennis Township Gazette newspaper article by Alex Davis titled "Big hopes for future meal center" about TFMC's plans.
October 17 - NBC-40 film footage with Phaedra Laird updating progress on TFMC.
October 28 - An update on TFMC in the weekly "Catching Up" column by Caitlin Dineen in the Press of Atlantic City.
November 16 - Front page article in the Cape May County Herald by Jack Fichter, plus a 4 minute 44 second video tour of TFMC on their website.
November 24 - Article by Alex Davis in the Middle Township Gazette newspaper summarizing progress on TFMC.
December 1 - Article in Hometown section of the Press of Atlantic City by Elisa Lala about what's new at TFMC.
January 18 - NBC 40 film footage by Rick Ritter detailing TFMC's monetary needs.
January 21 - Article by Michael Miller in Press of AC newspaper spotlighting TFMC's need to raise funds by March 31st.
January 25 - Article in Cape May County Herald newspaper about TFMC's money predicament.
January 26 - Article by Alex Davis in Middle Township Gazette newspaper summarizing TFMC's accomplishments and needs.
February 1 - Compass Points column by Editor Al Campbell in Cape May County Herald questioning whether the public will support TFMC.
February 27 - Press of Atlantic City article by Michelle Brunetti Post titled "Group plans fundraisers for Middle Township meal center" that talks about the Sunday, March 4 fundraiser at Flip Flopz and Thursday, March 22 beef & beer at the Shamrock Cafe.
March 8 - Television feature on the 6 o'clock news on NBC 40 about TFMC progress in raising $50,000 by March 31st. NBC 40's Sean Tallant handled both the interviews and camera.
March 9 - In-depth article by Alex Davis in the Middle Township Gazette concerning our three March fundraisers and our success in coming up with the required $50,000 by March 31st.
March 22 - Eleven o'clock news piece on NBC 40 by Sam Sweeney filmed at TFMC's beef & beer benefit held at the Shamrock Cafe in Wildwood.