Community Crusader: Linda Cerbone, Kencare Soup Kitchen

Community Crusader: Linda Cerbone, Kencare Soup Kitchen
Linda Cerbone, head of Kencare Soup Kitchen.

Linda Cerbone, a mother of two and a resident of Kensington, is the head of the Kencare Soup Kitchen, situated at Kensington Methodist Church in Roberts Avenue. She discusses what inspires her and the importance of giving back. 

What inspired you to become part of the Kencare Soup Kitchen?

I started off at Kencare because I cut my working days from Thursday to Saturday. Something had been telling me that I needed to give back to the community and as I have always been a Methodist, I decided to get involved there. 

I began by helping to pack parcels and make sandwiches with other volunteers. I have a bit of a dominant personality and landed up taking over the kitchen side. There were a couple of areas like clothing and parcel handouts that I did not want to get involved in but eventually did.

Former head co-ordinator, Jean Warburton, along with Minister Casper, started counselling at the church in 1998. They found that people did not only need counselling but food too, and that was how Kencare was born. When I first started, we were handing out two sandwiches and a cooldrink per person. I realised with the same amount of money that we were spending on bread, jam and peanut butter per week that I could cook a wholesome meal, which seems to have worked out very well.

What has been your greatest achievement as the head of the Kencare Soup Kitchen?

We used to only allow 60 people in the hall; we now feed up to 80 outside. KensingtonCAN group approached us to help the organisation – if we are short of anything we put out a call to one of the co-ordinators and help arrives. They have also organised vegetables from Chefs with Compassion, which is another amazing foundation. Every meal has some form of salad or side dish. It has been great having them on board.

Warburton has since retired during the Covid lockdown. Relying on the staff and volunteers, we have managed to keep going, especially after losing one of our biggest private sponsors. We are now sponsored by donations from very kind souls. I would love to grow the kitchen to provide for bigger and better parcels than we give at the moment but with the high price of food, we may be forced to stop parcels altogether. 

Boitumelo Mofokeng, who is part of KensingtonCAN, has started a group called In our Parents Name,  and they have asked us if they can join to teach people skills like sewing, knitting, crochet wire art, etc. which I think is a great skill to pass on. 

Kencare Soup Kitchen team packing parcels in Decemeber 2020.

What lessons have you learnt during your time at Kencare? 

I have realised that there are so many hungry and desperate people out there. But I have also learnt not not to fret too much about what you do not have. Many times we have had very little to give, but then we pray and put out a message on Facebook and to our sponsors and we normally are overwhelmed with the generous response.

It is not easy running a soup kitchen, there is a lot involved. Do your homework before embarking on this kind of project. It is time-consuming and can be soul-destroying when you cannot help everyone.

Some of the parcels that Kencare gave away in 2020.

What advice do you have for people to get more involved in the community?

Go and volunteer – there are people out there who can benefit from you giving your time. Treat everyone that stands in the queue with the same respect and dignity. There but for the grace of God go any of us, and with a brilliant team of helpers, you can do wonders.

There are so many ways people can help, including: time, financial help or collecting clothes, shoes, blankets and jerseys, knitting or crocheting aides. We also need books and pencils for children. For our Christmas parcels, we would like to add a couple of tins, some sweets, biscuits and roll-on. We also collect sanitaryware for those that cannot afford these items. We welcome donations from the community.