Franciscan Charities began in 2004 in response to a call for help. A handful of Newark’s most needy were gathered in the basement of St. Ann’s, a nearly-abandoned church in the West Ward. They were poor, and they were hungry.
A few volunteers went with hot soup and sincere intentions. What we found was a need so great we could not turn away. That first day we served 12 clients. We had little access to running water, no kitchen to speak of, frequent power outages, and many doubts. Gang members stood opposite our entrance. The police told us to go home, but we stayed. And soon 12 became 20, and 20 became 200. In time, a kitchen was built, a church was reopened, the gangs moved on, and a small piece of community was reclaimed.