ATLANTIC CITY — With the future of Sister Jean’s Kitchen still unclear, the Salvation Army is one of a handful of social service organizations stepping up to fill the void.

Captain Frank Picciotto, head of the Salvation Army Atlantic City Corps on South Texas Avenue, said the agency has seen an uptick in people needing food assistance since the abrupt closure of Sister Jean’s in early-February.

He estimated that an additional 400 meals were served by Salvation Army’s soup kitchen in February.

“We see the struggle that’s going on here,” said Picciotto. “But we’re blessed to be able to help those who are struggling or suffering.”

On an average day, Picciotto said, the facility serves about 100 to 150 people.

The Salvation Army serves free lunch every weekday from noon to 1 p.m. The organization’s food pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and again between 1 and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Picciotto said the Salvation Army also has showers and laundry machines available, offers services for women and provides vouchers to the agency’s thrift store on North Albany Avenue for those affected by domestic violence, fire or other emergency situations.

“The doors are always open,” he said. “I don’t want to see anybody on the streets suffering.”

The city forced Sister Jean’s Kitchen to vacate the Victory First Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Pennsylvania and Pacific avenues, on Feb. 7 after deeming the 163-year-old building unsafe. Sister Jean’s served nearly 300 meals per day before it closed.

The nonprofit has been working with city and state officials as well as the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to find a new location outside of the Tourism District.

Bill Southrey, a board member for Friends of Sister Jean Webster Inc. and former director of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, said he was not aware of any progress on the relocation issue. He said even with other agencies doing more, Atlantic City needs Sister Jean’s.

“Sister Jean’s does great work and should be supported by the town,” he said. “If anything should be supported, it’s Sister Jean’s.”

The Friends of Sister Jean Webster Inc. purchased three buildings in 2017 for $246,000 from the former St. Monica’s Catholic Church on North Pennsylvania Avenue with the intent of relocating, but the plan fell through. The CRDA had allocated $1 million to assist Sister Jean’s, but the total cost of outfitting the new buildings so that they complied with code proved to be more expensive than expected and the funding expired.

One week after the city closed the soup kitchen, Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr. publicly opposed moving Sister Jean’s to St. Monica’s, citing safety concerns for the children and residents of the neighborhood.

The Atlantic City Rescue Mission, located just outside the city’s Tourism District behind the Convention Center, reportedly received financial assistance from CRDA to offset the costs of feeding additional people after Sister Jean’s closed, according to a state official. Officials with the Rescue Mission said they have the capacity to serve up to 800 daily meals if necessary.

Contact: 609-272-7222 DDanzis@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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