When Peconic resident Alice Culver was honored at the Interfaith Nutrition Network’s INN Ball this month, she deflected credit for her years of operating the North Fork Community Supper program, first in Southold and then Greenport.
Instead, she focused on the volunteer team she’s put together, including her husband, Hal, who she said sustains the effort.
Those who honored her called Ms. Culver “a beacon of light” who has made a difference in the lives of others.
“Alice Culver is one of those special few who have been a guiding force for the INN in serving hungry and homeless Long Islanders throughout our region,” the program booklet said. She continues to be “the inspiration for North Fork’s volunteers.”
The weekly soup kitchen, which began at Southold Presbyterian Church in the mid-1990s and now operates from St. Agnes R.C. Church in Greenport, provides a hot meal weekly to the hungry. Some are homeless and others are residents whose wages don’t cover nutritious meals every day.
Guests at the regular Wednesday night community supper come to “John’s House,” an outgrowth of the church’s former affiliation with Maureen’s Haven. An increasing number are from the village’s large Latino population, Ms. Culver said.
Many families in the area who come to the soup kitchen arrive with young children, she said. The volunteers not only prepare a nourishing meal, they spend a lot of time during the week planning the meals and picking up food from local supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants and farms that generously donate to the effort, Ms. Culver said.
Some of the items that aren’t used for a given week’s meal are available through the food pantry at St. Agnes and are distributed to those who need it during the week.
The effort began for Ms. Culver at Thanksgiving 1995, when she and her late husband, Charles Bennett, decided against a trek to Lake George to spend the holiday with their children. Instead, they wanted to work in a local soup kitchen, only to discover there wasn’t one east of Riverhead.
That sparked Ms. Culver to launch the program guided by the INN. After Mr. Bennett died, she continued the program and when she met Mr. Culver, she rapidly enlisted him in her effort.
He recalls that while they were dating, he asked her one night what her plans were and she told him she would be working at the soup kitchen. She invited him to join her. He became a regular cook and was also pressed into service picking up donated food and delivering it to freezers at both his future wife’s home and the church.
“I have seen her dedication in feeding those in need,” Mr. Culver said. “Her support of the INN and its mission for almost 16 years is an inspiration to me and our volunteers.”
“Hal and I have been a team,” said Ms. Culver. He calls it “a day of giving back,” although the Culvers and their band of volunteers devote far more than one day a week to the effort.
Why do they do it?
“I couldn’t just play bridge and play golf,” Ms. Culver said.
In her speech at the INN Ball, Ms. Culver shared what has become her mantra: “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we do.”
Anyone interested in joining the Culvers’ band of volunteers or contributing food or money can contact the Culvers at 765-2981.