by Paula M. Riley
Last April we said goodbye to lifelong resident Jean Dwyer. Even though she passed away, her presence in Chestnut Hill lives on. In many shops and restaurants along the Avenue, glass jars bearing the sign “St. Vincent’s soup kitchen Thanksgiving Collection” are once again upon countertops. They welcome our spare change and remind us that not everyone will be seated at large banquets this Thanksgiving.
Jean Dwyer, with the help of Our Mother of Consolation’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul, first organized a collection of cash and pies for the St. Vincent’s Dining Room in Germantown in 1993.
The effort started quite innocently when the dining room’s director told Dwyer that there were no desserts for Thanksgiving. Dwyer began baking and asking her friends to do the same. She told of how her block smelled like a bakery as friends feverishly followed her lead in helping the poor.
Seventeen years later, pies are still collected and the extra change that area shoppers leave in the jars helps to pay for the Thanksgiving meal at the kitchen. The dining room feeds approximately 300 hungry men, women and children on Thanksgiving and each weekend of the year.
Although the collection has always been an illustration of the community coming together to help those in need, this year the collection is a joint effort between Teenagers Inc. and OMC’s Society of St Vincent de Paul. Eighth-grade students from OMC School distributed the jars and will be responsible for collecting donations throughout the month.
Chestnut Hill merchants graciously allow the collection jars to sit on their counters and Society of St. Vincent de Paul volunteers help by collecting and transporting pies. Janine’s Salon and Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop store the donated pies.
Past collections have resulted in donations in excess of 200 pies and $1,700 for St. Vincent’s Dining Room.
Each year, Dwyer’s children and grandchildren play a large role in the collection, helping to prepare, distribute and collect the jars. They led the effort to continue the collection.
“We wanted to do it in her memory and see her collection continue,” Marianne Dwyer said. “And it’s not just us – even the business association, in their October meeting mentioned this collection. It is so wonderful that the Chestnut Hill community can come together to help those in need.”
Cash collection jars are on display at merchants throughout Chestnut Hill. If you’d prefer to donate a pie, please deliver a fresh, baked pie to the Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop, 8509 Germantown Ave., or Janine Salon de Coiffure, 8432 Germantown Ave., or OMC Parish Center, 7 E. Chestnut Hill Ave. For more information call 215-242-4976.