Joining forces to feed needy

Salvation Army Captain Richard Sanchez (center) with lunch client Patrick Sims (right), 55, last Wednesday at the lunch program inside Salvation Army’s Riverhead headquarters.

Open Arms, the agency that’s been serving free meals to the needy from the Riverhead train station for the past year and a half, has found a new spot for its daily soup kitchen after being forced to move this month.

Open Arms has joined forces with The Salvation Army, which had already been running a lunch program out of its Osborn Avenue headquarters on Saturday afternoons, and the two groups will be teaming up to serve ham sandwiches, fruit and slices of cake daily. The new arrangement began last Wednesday.

Salvation Army Captain Richard Sanchez said the transition has been smooth and more people are showing up at the new location than at the train station.

Capt. Sanchez noted that the lunch program is particularly needed in the poor economy and that Open Arms’ attendance had more than tripled in the past two years. “It always slows down in the summer,” he said of the need for a lunch program. “But we’ve been seeing more than historically we have in the past.”

Organizers appear happy with the new digs. “I think it’s perfect,” said Open Arms director Zona Stroy.

The program will continue to run from about noon to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The town started subleasing the Riverhead station, which is owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority but not used as a station, in January 2009. But Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter announced earlier this year that the town would not renew its lease with Open Arms, forcing the agency to find another location.

The supervisor and other critics have said that a soup kitchen is important to the town but Riverhead’s transit hub is a bad location for it.

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