Still a Boy Scout at heart, now feeding those in need

by Len Lear
Posted 3/17/22

The kitchen manager for Caring for Friends, a 48-year-old nonprofit food bank and volunteer organization based in Northeast Philadelphia is dedicated to helping care for people who are hungry.

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Still a Boy Scout at heart, now feeding those in need

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Michael Coleman, who grew up in North Philadelphia, had no interest in joining the Boy Scouts when he was young. But his father, who saw the organization as a good source of structure and values, insisted. 

“I didn't even want to wear the uniform at first with the green pants,” said Coleman, who is now 30 and has lived in Mt. Airy for three years, “But once I went on my first camping trip, that changed everything. Even though it rained the whole weekend, I had a blast. We all bonded together, cooked together, hiked in the rain, learned how to pitch a tent. I loved it.”

Coleman, who went on to earn numerous honors and become an Eagle Scout, a senior patrol leader and assistant Scoutmaster, credits the group with much of his current success. 

“It gave me great leadership skills and taught me the importance of service to the community,” Coleman said. “It is a great way of life and helped make me the man I am today.”

And that man is someone who is dedicated to helping care for people who are hungry. He is now the kitchen manager for Caring for Friends, a 48-year-old nonprofit food bank and volunteer organization based in Northeast Philadelphia. Prior to that, he spent time working for the Boy Scouts and the YMCA in Ambler before joining the staff of Episcopal Community Services (ECS), where he ran a 10-person staff that fed 800 to 900 children.

Then “Caring for Friends reached out to me,” Coleman said. “I'm glad they did. This is a fun thing to do because I want to give back, and it shouldn't feel like work.”

Stef Arck-Baynes, managing director for communications and corporate relations at Caring for Friends, said "Michael has been a tremendous asset since he joined the Caring for Friends team. He is kind and hardworking, and he always ensures a fun and positive experience for our kitchen volunteers. Michael is also dedicated to transforming what we do and how we do it, so we can collectively make an even bigger positive impact on the lives of our neighbors in need."

Caring for Friends delivers up to 3,000 free meals to more than 28,000 clients, most of whom are homebound seniors, veterans and people with disabilities who live in the five-county Philadelphia area. It also provides food for people facing homelessness on the streets and in shelters, and provides food to more than 200 community-based organizations such as churches and food pantries, including St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Germantown.

They provide each client with one balanced meal per day. The group collects and prepares food that is donated by Acme Markets and other stores. Volunteers visit clients weekly to deliver trays, which can be reheated in an oven or toaster oven for serving daily. They might also provide supplemental food, frozen soups, breakfast items and pantry goods, as well as safety and security items such as smoke detectors and fans.

Coleman, whose wife Rayna is a Central High School graduate and the director of diversity and inclusion at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH), as well as an English teacher at the school, is also a cheerleader for Mt. Airy. 

“We love it,” Coleman said. “We can walk to Wawa. And Chestnut Hill has some really cool restaurants. We don't have to go to Center City. My wife loves the coffee shops, and Kilian's has everything you could possibly need.”

Not that he’ll have extra time. In addition to his job, he still volunteers with the Boy Scouts, and has been taking courses online from Wilmington University, where he is hoping to earn a degree in business administration. Eventually Coleman wants to start his own business, and then get an MBA. 

“My 30s will be busy,” he said.

For more information, call 215-464-2224 or visit caringforfriends.org. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com.

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