A Bright Place in a Hard City

By Derrick “D9” Branch

There is a place out there—a place that would never turn you down.  There is always something there for you and someone to help you get more.

This place has opened doors to many opportunities and experiences.  It brings communities and minds together, nourishing not only bodies but the minds, souls, and spirits of Trenton, NJ.  A place where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came – Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK).

If you ever went there right off the bat you would see the love in that place…the care the people have to get the job done right.  You would feel a true compassion towards this community.

It seems that most every place that caters to the least fortunate has a stigma attached to it — the stereotype point of view from the outside.  TASK destroys all of them hands down.

I came to the soup kitchen about four years ago.  Up to that point, my life was filled with a lot of ups and downs, filled with doubt and disappointments.  One day, just to break the daily routine, I decided to go to the soup kitchen.

On my way walking through the ‘hood, I noticed some people carrying bags of stuff looking all happy and content.  As I got closer to the kitchen, there were more and more happy-ass people with bags of stuff.  My anticipation to get to the soup kitchen made me walk just a little quicker.  To tell the truth, I was almost running thinking the stuff might run out.  It didn’t.

Turning the corner to Escher Street, looking down the street at the soup kitchen, I could see a tree that looked like it had cherry blossoms on it right in front and people disappearing and emerging through the doors of the kitchen right to the side of the tree.

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I remember sitting at a table looking around at the art on the wall and thinking about the first time I came to the soup kitchen years ago.  It was a lot different back then…a lot less welcoming.  They were serving cold, funky soup equally cold and funky grilled cheese sandwiches.  I didn’t eat that day.  But now it is way better and nicer.  The food is 1,000 times better too.

There is a very good GED program at TASK that helps people earn their GED.  Some of these people at one time seemed to have given up on life, lost hope.  Now with the help at TASK, their lives have been turned around and they’re moving on to bigger, better things.  Many of them had dropped out 20-30 years ago and some never completed grade school.  If that is not a great testimony, than what is?

It wasn’t long before I was at the kitchen almost every day.  The food was good and I also joined the art program and was learning hands-on how to paint.  I benefited a lot when I found out about the kitchen.  TASK made it so easy.  The staff, volunteers, and tutors were truly open and caring.  Some of them at times went out of their way to help me.  I received all types of support and opportunities.

In the second year coming to TASK, I had started selling paintings for the first time in my life and there was another arts program opened at TASK – performing arts with poetry and music.   This was like a God-send to me and the young lady who spear-headed it is a guardian angel.

The last four years of being a member of SHARE, I’ve seen over a dozen plays– even participated in writing one, performed at maybe 200 or more shows and I am now a member of two bands, FunkTASKtiks and Underground Rats.  The list goes on but one of the most notable accomplishments was when we, the SHARE group, won a regional competition for hunger awareness.  One of my most fulfilling moments at SHARE was what a young man said about my poem, “Victory.”  He said that the poem had helped him get through a problem he was having for some time.  He thanked me and asked me for a copy.  That was the reason I write in hopes I could help someone get through a tough spot in life.  Another satisfied customer.

TASK is a place that erases stereotypes, breaks through boundaries and stigmas, brings together diverse communities, develops understanding between cultures, and opens up a world of opportunities and possibilities for those in need.  I’m not saying everything is peaches and cream…this is Trenton Area Soup Kitchen…but any negativity is outweighed 100 to 1 by all the positivity at TASK.

Life for me before TASK was like being in that large round room with all the doors—you know the one—and after choosing all the wrong ones, I finally got it right at TASK.  There goes another satisfied customer, me.

Derrick Branch is a member of the A-TEAM Artists of Trenton and a performing artist with the SHARE Project performing arts program of TASK.

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