He cooks hot meals for 200

ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Bishop Thomas Martin preps the whole week in order to offer low-income and homeless people a free meal each Tuesday.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Bishop Thomas Martin preps the whole week in order to offer low-income and homeless people a free meal each Tuesday.
Posted: July 01, 2014

BISHOP Thomas Martin, 78, starts his Tuesdays before 5 a.m. on a mission: prepare meals for 200 or more people at a North Philadelphia church - sometimes by himself.

"I get tired," admitted Martin, of Elkins Park. "But it's a mission, and in a mission you get strength."

For about 15 years, Martin has helped run Mount Olive Holy Temple's feeding program, a sit-down meal from noon to about 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays at the church on Broad Street near Jefferson.

The goal is to provide a hearty meal to homeless and low-income folks who come from across the city.

Martin's resume bespeaks 25 years of experience. He started the program at Bethel Holy Temple at 16th Street near Westmoreland, in Tioga.

"It's love I have from God. And love shows concern," Martin said. "Anytime people walk from Germantown here, or West Philly, it shows they appreciate the meal."

He also keeps busy throughout the week.

Carolyn Martin, 77, his wife of 57 years and the program director, said Martin spends the rest of the week preparing for the meal and the church's services.

And although he gets donations from organizations and restaurants, he said he spends up to $200 a month for the program out of his own pocket.

The church gets the rest of the goods from Philabundance, SHARE Food Program, the Office of Supportive Housing, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Entenmann's and donations from parishioners. The first 60 people in line for a meal also get a free bag of groceries.

Each Tuesday's menu varies slightly, Martin said, but he always makes sure at least three meats and two vegetables are there for a well-rounded plate.

Last Tuesday's menu consisted of ground beef, barbecued pork, rice, mashed and sweet potatoes, casseroles, baked goods and more.

When it's not just him preparing the food, Martin said he can count on help from Joan King, 64, of North Philly; Brenda McCune, 52, of Elkins Park; and Gregory Ritch, 61, of West Philly, a deacon at the Church of God in the Word.

"I always believe in a gourmet meal, but of course that takes time," Martin said.

Once the doors open at noon, Martin can be found in the back of the small kitchen with an apron on and a smile on his face.

He lets another group of about 15 to 20 volunteers from the parish and Your A.O.K. Foundation handle the rest.

Volunteers said the seats are usually filled with regulars.

Last Tuesday, when Carolyn Martin asked who had never been there before, only two of about 80 people raised their hands.

"Every now and then, people say, 'I used to come here, but I changed my life,' " Thomas Martin said. "It's encouraging."


@PatriciaMadej

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