Service is Newark woman's greatest joy

By Barry Carter | The Star-Ledger
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on May 06, 2016

Eleanor Glover stays in the servant lane.

It's the one marked with humility. There's no judgement — only encouragement when she hands you a hot meal and offers her get-up-off-the-mat forecast:

"You can be down, but you don't have to stay down.''

Just ask Joann McLucas.

Her life changed 10 years ago when she came to the New Hope Community Feeding Program in Newark, where she met Glover and most likely heard those same words

Disheveled and addicted to drugs, McLucas went there to eat. But Glover, who is in charge of the food program, steered the woman away from her destructive habits with motherly concern, like the matriarch in a family.

"She said there's something better in life for you,'' said McLucas. "She taught me about God. She saw something special in me.''

The sincerity is genuine when this 70-year-old is around, dispensing straightforward truth and advice.  For the past year, the sick and the shut-ins saw Glover a lot when she delivered groceries to their homes in East Orange and Newark. Folks who were hungry and homeless had had her all to themselves for 14 years, until the feeding program closed in December 2014.

Glover, who thrives on helping others, was without a place to operate for a year and the people she served were without a place to call home.

"It was rough, '' she said.

She missed the people and they missed her right back.

"Every time I saw them, they would say, 'When are you going to open?'''

The New Hope Baptist Church didn't want to shut down the program that started in 1996, but the Rev. Joe Carter said the aging building in which it was located on Sussex Avenue became too expensive to maintain.

"We were throwing good money after bad,'' Carter said.

The church suspended the program for a year, but that time period might as well have been the longest yard.

Andrew Alford, the cook, wasn't whipping up eggs, sausage and grits. Glover's trusted sidekicks – Virginia Covington and Frances Dudley – weren't around for her to joke with and serve up 50 to 100 meals daily with other volunteers.

The team was split up. Glover took trips to Miami, the Bahamas and Disney World in Florida twice. Why not? She retired after 33 years as an administrative assistant for Verizon.

But the feeding program – and the kitchen where it all happens – kept tugging at her heart, even as she filled her time with other pursuits.

Glover had been the backbone of the program since 2001, taking up the servant mantle in the tradition of others before her.

"Every time we lose a good leader, we somehow have been blessed to have another one right in place,'' Carter said. "Her ability to inspire others, I think, is what makes it so special.''

There was no fanfare when the new soup kitchen opened last week a few blocks away from the old site. It's not as big, but it's cozy, with folding chairs and rectangular tables. On the walls are inspirational messages, including this one – "Just Be Grateful.''

The word spread quickly that the "New Hope" family was back and Shelton Williams was the first one through the door. He had eaten at other soup kitchens, but they didn't have what he needed on the menu.

Mother Glover.

"There's no place like home,'' he said.

Which means, there's order and decorum and respect and love.

Everyone signs in. The men remove their hats. Heads bow for prayer. Everyone is friendly. They all know each other, giving an update on their lives.

Richard Price is looking for an apartment and a job. Before breakfast, Rasheed Patterson shares with the group that he asks the creator each day to guide his steps.

The hospitality opens them up. It's warm and comforting.  The welcome mat is always there.

Glover rolls it out from Monday through Saturday, wearing a green apron and a pleasant smile, her glasses atop her nose.  She manages the shop, clipping coupons, making sure there's enough for everyone to eat.

If someone shows up after the scheduled time, volunteer Juanita Boozer said Glover is sure to find some food for that person.

Mothers do that.

So, it was only natural for her to do the same thing during a Thanksgiving family vacation in Miami last year.

Glover said there were extra trays of buffet-style food that her family couldn't eat or take with them.

The idea to give it away came from her son, Ron, and she and the family agreed.  

On the streets of Miami, the homeless lined up for near the restaurant, thankful for the generosity.

"If I could help just one person as I pass along the way, then my living has not been in vain,'' Glover said.

It never can be when you stay in the servant lane.

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