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Couple Honored for Soup Kitchen Dedication

By Gary Puleo
The Time Herald

NORRISTOWN — The area’s prime hunger-buster for folks who are a little down on their luck has been called the Cadillac of all soup kitchens.

Behind the wheel of St. John’s Episcopal Church’s soup kitchen, Grace and Cecil Bean have been zealously driving hunger right out of town for the last 30 years.

“We love what we do,” said Grace, who, at 90, hasn’t surrendered a scintilla of vigor and passion for her work to advancing years. “And everybody loves us because we love them, so it works out great.”

In addition to the countless expressions of gratitude they hear every day, the couple has tangible evidence of that love lining the walls of their office at St. John’s, 23 E. Airy St., Norristown, in the form of awards and citations.

Most recently, State Rep. Tim Briggs presented them with a House Citation for their service to the community.

“Grace and Cecil Bean are two of the most venerable, selfless people I know, and it was a privilege to recognize their years of hard work in the community,” Briggs said in a statement. “We can only hope their work inspires others to serve the community.”

Grace said that the recognition is “nice, but we’re doing this for people. We want everybody to know that we’re here to help them. We’ll feed anybody, not just the poor and the homeless. People who’ve lost their jobs will come for a meal.”

Philabundance is just one of the sources providing food for the kitchen every week, Cecil said.

“They’ll bring us meat, fresh eggs, vegetables. We get baked goods from Giant in Blue Bell and Costco, and the Chick-fil-A stores in East Norriton, Plymouth Meeting, Audubon and Montgomeryville bring us chicken,” Cecil said.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Oaks delivers vegetables grown in a Victory Garden, reminiscent of World War II era, Cecil noted.

“We also have about 20 churches helping us with donations, so we’re very fortunate,” he added.

Folks usually start queuing up early for the 11:30 a.m. Tuesday openings. Other churches take over the kitchen on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and then the Beans are back with their volunteers whipping up French toast, pancakes, omelets and other morning favorites for a lavish breakfast feast on Saturdays, 8:30 to 10 a.m.

While hearty dishes like meatloaf, spaghetti, chicken noodle soup and beef stew make up the menu much of the time, every third Tuesday of the month, diners get to chow down on gourmet fare, courtesy of William Penn Inn in Gwynedd.

“The owners, Peter and Christina Friefrich have been so good to us,” Grace noted. “They bring us completely cooked meals for 200 people, and then Christina will stay and help us serve them.”

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