Lehigh Valley

Local man dishes out care, compassion and hope from soup kitchen

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Inside a church on Eighth and Walnut in Allentown, is a soup kitchen that's run by a guy named Charles Brannon.

Every day - for the last 17 years, he's gotten up, and started cooking at the Ecumenical Soup Kitchen that now is housed in St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

"I feel like once I wake up, I show up, and the rest of it… the guy upstairs takes care of," Brannon says, chuckling.

His kitchen runs like clockwork.

"We serve at noon," he says, adding, "Right on the dot. Not 12:05, or 11:45, 12 o'clock!"

He dishes up warm meals with a side of compassion.

"There's a great need in Allentown for food," Charles says.

He says many are surprised to find out, they've gone from feeding 75 a day here, to more than 200.

Many are kids.

"The Soup Kitchen may be the only meal those kids get that day," Charles says.

So he makes sure, it's a good one.

He lists today's menu: Sausage tetrazzini, garden salad, soup, dessert and bread sticks.

The only thing that beats his cooking is his tell-it-like-it-is nature

Just one example, a volunteer checks in with him, asking "Anything else you'd like me to do?"

He thinks about it for a second, then says, "Yeah, drink coffee and sit down!" and everybody laughs.

But he also has a kindness, a compassion you have to have, to do this job.

"It's pretty great, seriously, it's pretty great," he says.

And that's why, this meal, is bittersweet. It's one of the last he'll ever cook here.

"It has been an adventure," Charles says, smiling a little as he looks down.

After 17 years, Charles is hanging up the apron.

"I'm very grateful. I wouldn't have traded this job, for any other job I've ever had," he tells us.

His friends decided to throw him a goodbye party - and they asked anybody who had a story about Charles, to come by and share it.

And boy did they...

Dozens of people showed up and got up to tell their own stories about Charles. Everybody ended, saying the same thing: No matter how you slice it, Charles will be missed.

But the guy who's given a big chunk of his life to this place, is ready.

"That's what it's all about, making a difference in someone's life. And it makes a difference in my life as well," he says.

After all this time dishing up soup for others, it's his cup that runneth over.

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