About Someone Cares
“If you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon.” – Isaiah 58:10
Someone Cares Soup Kitchen
Someone Cares Soup Kitchen is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit serving Orange County, CA. Merle Hatleberg, who at the time was working as a Costa Mesa site director for an Orange County seniors program, founded the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in 1986. Each day, Merle had numerous people coming to the door at her workplace who were hungry but didn’t qualify as seniors for feeding. Many of these “people” were school-aged children. She was usually able to slip them some food, but there was an unmet need that was deeply troubling to her.
Drawing on her own meager funds, she bought a large pot and made her first pot of soup. on June 15, 1986. That first day, Merle served about 30 people and the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen was born. From 1986 until 1997, the Soup Kitchen served its meals – setting up in local churches or at the Rea Community Center in Costa Mesa. In 1997, with the help of many local business fundraisers, the Soup Kitchen was able to purchase a building that used to be a Chinese restaurant.
Our mission is simple: To feed a daily nutritional meal to the homeless, the unemployed, the working poor, the mentally challenged, the physically challenged, the senior citizens, and most important of all – the children. We provide this meal to our guests in a friendly, non-threatening atmosphere.
We believe that no one should go to bed hungry, on the street, or otherwise. The Soup Kitchen provides a nutritional and tasteful meal to the less fortunate in our community. A meal that we would be proud to serve to our family at home. A well-balanced meal, made fresh daily, consisting of vegetable soup, lettuce and fruit salads, hearty and filling side dishes, bread, muffins, dessert, milk, and water.
Currently, the Soup Kitchen is serving over 300 guests per day, 7 days per week. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 12:00pm to 3:00pm, and breakfast is served every Saturday and Sunday, from 9:00 am to 11:00 a.m.
The need for our services has tremendously grown since 1986. Soup Kitchen served an average of 120,000 meals per year in the early 2000s. Since then our meals served have tripled and we estimate that over 300,000 meals have been served yearly.
In 2002, there were reported 23,000 homeless people living in Orange County. This number grew by 19% in 2003, totaling 27,947. Deeply disturbing and also the fastest-growing segment is families with children. An Orange County Needs Assessment Survey conducted in 2006 revealed that 35,065 people have experienced a homeless episode. Of this number, 24,545 are individuals in families with children, and 10,520 are unaccompanied individuals. The Orange County Department of Education also conducted a study that showed there were 22,025 homeless children and youth in Orange County. These numbers indicate a growing need for our services.
Soup Kitchen conducted a guest survey in August 2011, which revealed that approximately 50% of these individuals considered themselves homeless. This number has grown since 2003, when a similar survey was done that showed only 30% of homeless people being served. The recent guest survey also depicted an increase in the use of our services by other segments of the population, such as the children, working poor, and unemployed.
We also take care of our guests during the Holidays.
On Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, the Soup Kitchen provides a special meal and celebration that these people would not have otherwise. Over 500 guests are served each holiday, and most of them are “first-timers” to the Soup Kitchen.
Christmas is one of the busiest days here at the Soup Kitchen. During this time, a toy drive is organized that allows us to give to nearly 1,000 deserving children, where each child takes a picture with Santa Claus and then receives a present. It is truly wonderful to see these less fortunate kids celebrate and experience a traditional Christmas celebration.
Someone Cares Tutoring Program provides an opportunity to serve a population in need of a variety of social services by referral only from Pomona Elementary Administration. We believe that feeding both the minds and bodies of the children is vital to their well-being. Therefore, in 2001, we implemented an after-school program for children who live within the neighborhood.
The program provides after-school literacy and academic achievement assistance services to the impoverished and at-risk students who are in K-4th grade. The parents of these children are normally in the low to very-low-income bracket (income based on HUD’s Income Report) or have no means of income at all. Most of them also do not speak English.
In addition to offering academic support to these children, we provide them meals. By doing so, we hope to help them break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their future generations to come.
The Someone Cares Tutoring Program operates Monday through Thursday from 2:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. We currently serve 45 children, and each child receives 4 hours of individual instruction in the following areas:
Tutoring in reading, spelling, language, math, science, and technology for three hours after school.
Professional tutors at 15:3 ratio students/tutors.
Assistance with understanding and keeping up with homework (as so many of the children’s parents do not speak English, they cannot assist their children with their homework).
Access to and training on computers and computer software that fosters academic skills and technical literacy.
Children are served either a meal or a healthy snack prior to being tutored and a take-home snack for the evening.
Pomona Elementary School Testimony
Principal Julie McCormick of Pomona Elementary School, located in Costa Mesa, refers students to our Tutoring Program. She reported that many of her 2nd and 3rd-grade students are doing kindergarten-level work. From 2000-2003, Stanford 9 test scores for Pomona Elementary were considerably lower than the District’s average.
The Someone Cares Tutoring Program is instrumental in helping these school children reach their full potential and attain more satisfactory and acceptable levels in their test scores. As a result of this program, 75% of the students will achieve an advance of 1-grade level, and 25% will advance 2-grade levels on their standardized test.
Pomona elementary is a Reading First School and has received a Federal First, three-year grant and is considered a Program Improvement School as defined by the No Child Left Behind act of 2001. We are committed to providing each of the 45 students attending the tutoring program with individualized instruction to increase the reading, math, spelling, and English levels by 1 grade level on the standardized test.
We hope to break the cycle of poverty before it starts with these children by securing a strong foundation in their early education, as well as feeding them. By providing a proper foundation and the tools needed to go forth with their education, we hope they will continue school through college and influence their own children to do the same – which ultimately can break the cycle of poverty in their own family generation.