March 5, 2006 — My Brother's Table came into existence in response to Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and has been helping hungry people ever since. Last year the organization served 11,000 meals to the hungry, each day feeding from 35 to 55 people. The motto used by the operation — now located in the Viola Otis Stienmann Community Center in Frederiksted — is "Serving over 10,000 meals annually, to one hungry person at a time."
Rod Koopman, pastor at the St. Croix Reforming Church, has been the organization's executive director for the last six years.
In February he received a letter from a lady who received respite during a troubled time in her life by getting square meals at My Brother's Table.
The lady, who will be referred to as Ms. C., wrote, "There was a time in my life — in the not-so-distant past — when I was in need of food, a life, and some semblance of normalcy. I found myself desperate for a solid foundation and that came in the form of My Brother's Table. You cannot imagine how important food can become … especially when you have nothing else to hold on to. When desperate times led to desperate measures, it was sustaining and comforting to know that there was a lifeline — at least I could think I had the strength because I ate that day!"
She continued, "As invisible as I was, all the loving people I came in contact with from My Brother's Table were the absolute most caring people I've ever met in really bad times."
She concluded her letter, "I have since re-established myself, recovered from the spiraling downfall and continue to firmly place one foot in front of the other… with God's help."
Koopman says credit for keeping the organization going has to go to staff members Rose Carty and Hyacinth George. He explains, "They are our chefs, but they not only prepare the food, they prepare the menus, serve the food, keep order, and provide a good atmosphere."
The community support for My Brother's Table has also been broad based. Koopman said that there is a long list of civic organizations, restaurants, businesses, and churches that give a helping hand to the organization.
Koopman says that besides feeding people, My Brother's Table also tries to give people direction in finding a path to walk to a better life. He explains, "We do this by helping people maintain their dignity when oftentimes they have very little else." The building My Brother's Table is now located in was purchased with help from the Steinmann family, who wanted to honor the memory of their mother who fed the hungry of Frederiksted while she raised her family.
In the early years the organization was located in St. Paul's Parish Hall, then meals were served in the market on King Street until its present home was made available and renovated several years ago.
Rotary West is working to provide a small pavilion behind the present home so that the group's guests can be seated outside in the shade. What the group looks for in the future is continued financial support and more volunteers in the summer when schools are out.
During the year students from Country Day volunteer on a regular basis; also, some seasonal residents volunteer the months they are here. When they leave, My Brother's Table is often shorthanded.
At the present time residents can help by donating items for a benefit yard sale planned for July. Anyone who wishes to donate items or help in other ways can call 772-FOOD (3663) or 778-0520.
Ms. C. wrote that what she and her friends were most grateful for when they were guests at My Bother's Table was that no one made them feel "like some pestilence or garbage to be thrown away and forgotten."
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