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The Suburbanite
  • After the Headlines — Samaritan's Table served 20,000-plus in 2010

  • Since Jan. 1, the Samaritan’s Table in Canton has served more than 20,000 meals. The soup kitchen does not change much for the holidays, except for some decorations and holiday spirit.

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  • Below the Christmas tree on stage and across the large church hall, 85-year-old Harold Smith rides his electric wheelchair, decked with holiday ornaments.
    Every Thursday, he joins the hundreds who eat a free meal at the Samaritan’s Table in downtown Canton. This soup kitchen at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church serves the largest meal in Stark County.
    Since Jan. 1, the kitchen has served more than 20,000 meals.
    A four-day Repository series on how area workers coped with hard times brought the kitchen into the spotlight. It was featured in a Sept. 9 story; the county has at least 23 other soup kitchens.
    Except for decorations, the Samaritan’s Table does not change much for the holidays.
    Its purpose remains constant: To feed the hungry.
    “I think general economics drive this,” volunteer Dave Basso said, “and I think people come out in the cold because they’re hungry.”
    Not everyone is homeless.
    Jeff Reed lives alone in an apartment. But he is a bad cook and admits it.
    “I come here to eat,” the 39-year-old said.
    The Samaritan’s Table is managed by Community Services of Stark County, a not-for-profit social and mental healthy agency. The weekly meal began back in October 1986.
    On Dec. 9, more than 600 plastic bags filled with toilet paper and personal care products were passed out at the Samaritan’s Table. The toiletries came from a countywide collection in October.
    “I like to come here because they help people and people are nice,” said Sarch Wilson, who took home some bags.
    Tom Preiss, head chef and volunteer, said some holiday seasons they draw large crowds; other years they don’t.
    He said they served 250 on Dec. 2; two weeks earlier, they served 400 folks. He points out that St. John’s parish runs the community meal on Thanksgiving Day — not the Samaritan’s Table.
    “What’s the difference between November and December?” asked Preiss, refraining from solving this mystery.
    “I don’t ask. I just serve,” he said. “They’re here for whatever reason.”