"It's a blessing that we're here. I know soup kitchens all over the country that are struggling because they don't have the support from their communities," she said.
Thursday's lunch menu will feature turkey, thanks to volunteers who roasted 15 birds for the occasion. Simpson estimates about 175 people for lunch, but noted the number is usually higher. According to her, the average number of visitors each day has risen by about 100 this year, and Manna Meal has seen an increase in the number of women who come by for meals.
"The amount of people coming to the soup kitchen has definitely increased," Simpson said. "It happened in this year, so even in 2008 we didn't have such an increase. I think it's the fact that people aren't employed. A big portion of the people we feed are people with mental handicaps, and I'm seeing a lot more of that, and I'm not sure why.
"It's people who really don't have the ability to feed themselves, people who can't go to the grocery store and pick out foods that go together, put a meal together and actually cook it. They don't have the ability to do that."
Dave Price, who lives in Cranberry Township, Pa., and is visiting family, said he and his wife, Angela, bring their children to volunteer every year with Manna Meal. Price and his twin brother, Doug, also volunteering with his family, grew up attending St. John's with their father, a former pastor at the parish.
"If I lived around here I'd try to come more often. I always feel bad volunteering around Thanksgiving sometimes because they always have a lot of help around this time," he said. "When they really need the help is the first week of March or the second week of June. We came on Wednesday instead of Thursday because we knew everyone would be volunteering that day."
Price's four children, who are between the ages of 7 and 16, also volunteered Wednesday. According to Angela, it's a family tradition they've carried out for years, and something she wanted her children to experience.
"We come into town, and on our first day here we volunteer. It's been one of our traditions for years," Angela said. "I think it gives kids a sense of community and a sense of purpose, which is something kids sometimes lack."
Manna Meal has fed more than 1.3 million people in its 38-year history. Breakfast is offered from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays. For more information, including how to volunteer, visit www.mannameal.com.
Please help Manna Meal continue their work by donating to the Gazette Charities Christmas Fund. When you make a donation to the Gazette Charities Fund, every penny goes to the agencies and people who need help.
The Gazette covers the administrative costs of the fund. All donations to Gazette Charities are tax-deductible. To donate online, go to wvgazette.com and click on the Gazette Charities Christmas Fund logo.Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.