Mistakes, poor communication and inaction led to the city’s closing of Sister Jean’s Kitchen last week.
And every party — the city, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the state and the nonprofit that runs the kitchen — all bear some responsibility for fixing what happened.
Fortunately, with some cooperation and creativity, the problem can be solved.
The Atlantic City Rescue Mission has stepped in as a stopgap and is increasing the number of poor it serves. The mission, which had been serving 150 to 200 meals daily, has said it could increase that to 800 meals a day, if needed. That would more than cover the needs of those who depend on Sister Jean’s.
A permanent partnership between the Rescue Mission and Sister Jean’s is a solution that should be considered. If the two nonprofits pooled their funding, volunteers, staff, and other resources, perhaps that strengthens their collective ability to serve the city’s neediest.
Such a partnership would benefit the city and both organizations in a couple of ways.
First, Sister Jean’s would no longer have to spend precious resources to renovate the old St. Monica’s Church, avoiding red tape and further delays.
For the Rescue Mission, which seems willing to take a more central role, the benefits may not be as clear, but there are advantages. Pooling revenue resources with Sister Jean’s Kitchen would likely allow them to extend their food dollars even beyond the added demand.
A move into the Rescue Mission building, located across the street from the Convention Center, helps the city in its continued efforts to relocate social service programs outside the Tourism District (although the Rescue Mission is right on the edge of the district).
Getting Sister Jean’s Kitchen out of the Tourist District has been a topic for years, and in 2017, CRDA pledged $1 million to help Friends of Jean Webster, the nonprofit that runs the kitchen, to help make that happen.
We look to the state, which since September has exerted considerable control over the city government under Gov. Phil Murphy, to make that happen.
Murphy has committed the force of state agencies to help Atlantic City recover its footing. As part of the state takeover of Atlantic City, he’s pledged the use of state agencies — health, community affairs, law, etc. — to cut through the clutter and get things done.
That’s how Jean Webster would have solved this problem. Webster was a casino chef when she came home from work one day and saw a homeless man digging through garbage searching for food. She fed the man in her own kitchen. From that charitable act, came Sister Jean’s Kitchen, which she was a part of until until her death in 2011.
Everybody needs to channel a little of that mojo now. See the problem, solve the problem and build from there.