NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The first thing you notice at Elijah’s Promise, a social service agency and soup kitchen in New Brunswick, is the inviting aroma.
Then you see the pleasant decor, tables for four, flowers, soft lighting.
“It gives them a sense of dignity instead of ‘I’m at a soup kitchen.’ When it first opened up they used to be on line outside and there were bars on the windows,” kitchen manager Pam Johnson said.
Johnson knows firsthand the importance of dignity.
“I used to be a guest,” Johnson said. “I had to utilize the facility, the services that they had. I was on crack cocaine and heroin and also homeless.”
She’s 23 years clean thanks in part to the love and support from Elijah’s Promise.
“And when I got here I found hope because there were other people in here like me,” Johnson said. “I was accepted, I was loved.”
“They get free medical care, visits, physicals, lab work all for free,” said Director of Community Services Yvette Molina, who helps people with addiction and mental health services.
The organization also put folks on the path to employment.
“We started a culinary training school. It’s a six month, state certified program,” executive director Jim Zullo. “People go through it, they get externships working in the real world.”
That’s how Johnson got her break.
“They gave me the opportunity to be a more productive member of society and to turn my life around,” she said.