Man who feeds homeless on Parkway gets needed help

Cranford Coulter of Souderton serves his homemade soup to hungry people along Vine Street between 18th and 19th Streets during a visit this year.
Cranford Coulter of Souderton serves his homemade soup to hungry people along Vine Street between 18th and 19th Streets during a visit this year. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 18, 2014

Maybe it's the "hot sweet something" soup he has served lately at 18th and Vine Streets. Maybe it's the recession's lingering effects.

For whatever reasons, the Montgomery County man whose 25-year mission to feed the homeless was almost cut short by foreclosure keeps attracting fans and funds. And the lines for his soup keep growing.

Cranford Coulter, who founded and runs the King's Jubilee ministry out of his Souderton home, had his house listed in February for sheriff's sale. But after Inquirer readers read about Coulter's ministry and financial strains, donations poured in from around the region and the world.

With $45,000 in donations, Coulter and his wife, Bethann, were able to pay off the debt and interests from their missed mortgage payments, totaling $12,000. Coulter said Monday that the rest of the money was used to continue paying his mortgage and help two other families in need.

He recently exhausted the influx of money he received this winter. But help keeps coming in, and he keeps churning out those weekly meals.

Last month, a Doylestown couple raised $1,800 as they prepared to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa. They plan to give the money to Coulter in the form of a grocery-store gift card. And a man volunteered to be a driver for Coulter's ministry, hauling coolers of soup and food to Center City every Thursday night.

The contents of those coolers are needed now more than ever, Coulter said Monday. The number of people lining up for dinner on the Parkway has doubled to about 250 each Thursday night.

"The availability of jobs for people entering the workforce isn't there," Coulter said, noting the many young adults who come out for his weekly soup deliveries. He said some groups that stopped feeding the homeless after Mayor Nutter shut down their operations did not return, "because they didn't know the ban was reversed."

Coulter helped reverse it. Though ill in 2012, he joined with other advocates in the lawsuit that undid Nutter's ban on feeding the homeless on the Parkway.

Coulter drives down from Souderton to 18th and Vine each Thursday evening to deliver his homemade soup to the hungry, who line up to await his arrival. He even makes soup in the summer, often experimenting with the recipes. Last week, he boiled quinoa in mango nectar and added cinnamon, allspice, and mashed yams.

He says the "hot sweet something" soup was a hit.

In addition, Coulter usually makes two or three side dishes. Other volunteers bring bananas, oranges, hard-boiled eggs, and peanuts.

He still struggles financially. His troubles started in 2010 when he became seriously ill due to an infection and eventually lost his online business selling Orthodox icons. He has since started making and selling art, but it hasn't provided much income.

Coulter's dedication to feeding the homeless regardless of his own problems has inspired others - including Jim and Susan Reichwein.

The Doylestown couple returned from their hike up Kilimanjaro this month and are looking to raise even more money for Coulter. In their e-mail to friends, the Reichweins said Coulter's actions "are inspiring and what we all hope to emulate in our own personal actions every day."

They wrote, "We want to support him so that he can continue to serve those that are in need of a hot meal without the additional burden of finding funds to purchase food."

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