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More than a meal

Someone Cares Soup Kitchen provides a warm community for both the servers and recipients.

December 24, 2007|By Brianna Bailey and and Kelly Strodl

Ninety-year-old Bridget Prievel comes to Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa for the food and stays for the friends. She and other retirees who live at Bethel Towers, an apartment complex down the street from the soup kitchen, often visit the kitchen for a hot meal and warm conversation.

“I get lonely sometimes and I come here to be with people,” Prievel said. “The people here are so lovely.”

The program served up slices of ham and pumpkin pie on Christmas Eve to people who might not have a place to go — everyone from families having trouble making ends meet, to the homeless and senior citizens. The program also feeds the souls of the people who volunteer at the kitchen, said Debbee Pezman, who serves on the program’s board of directors.

“I feel so blessed to be able to give back to people,” Pezman said. “Some of our volunteers have been here for 15 years, and they have made great friendships.”

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Pezman’s mother, Merle Hatleberg, founded Someone Cares more than 21 years ago.

Today, Pezman said she has a hard time imagining where some of the people she and the other volunteers feed every day would go if the soup kitchen closed its doors for the whole holiday season. Although normally open seven days a week, the kitchen is closed Christmas Day.

“As I walk around and wipe off tables and pick up trays, I hear people talking about what they’re going to do tomorrow and it really breaks your heart,” Pezman said.

For some, Christmas is a time to celebrate with family and friends, but for others, it’s just the end of another month, when funds are tight before the next Social Security check arrives, said Betty Hart, who has worked or volunteered her time at the soup kitchen for the past 16 years. Hart also runs the kitchen’s after-school tutoring program for grade-school children.

“It’s a warm, inviting place to be,” Hart said. “It’s a community. People know each other here.”

Help floods into the kitchen during the holidays, when people feel the biggest need to donate their time and money to a worthy cause, Hart said.

About 40 people called the kitchen Dec. 18 to ask if they could help out Christmas Eve, she said. More than 80 called Monday.

Todd Trowbridge, a Huntington Beach resident, just graduated from a local drug dependency program and though he has little family to celebrate the holidays with, he was all smiles when he sat at the festively decorated table Monday at the soup kitchen.

“A lot of people, they’re just getting out of jail and losing everything they own,” Trowbridge said. “This at least gives them something to look forward to.”

Everything from purchasing power to the job market is getting tighter, Trowbridge said. Add to that a criminal record and it’s almost impossible to get by in Orange County, he added.

Times may be tight but the cheer was high at the soup kitchen, which ironically was not serving soup Monday.

For Christmas Day, Trowbridge was grateful he had a place to celebrate.

“This place really helps; a lot of people depend on it,” Trowbridge said.


BRIANNA BAILEY may be reached at (714) 966-4625 or at brianna.bailey@latimes.com.

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