Couple marks 48 years of volunteering, sharing food and friendship through Philadelphia nonprofit

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Thursday, November 17, 2022
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Arlene Urbanski says her friend came up with the idea of making meals for those in need after she visited a woman in her own neighborhood who was alone with "no food in the cupboard."

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- About twice a month, Tony and Arlene Urbanski pick out meals and box them up for those in need. They volunteer their time at the nonprofit, Caring for Friends, which was started by one of their friends, Rita Ungaro-Schiavone.

Arlene Urbanski says her friend came up with the idea of making meals for those in need after she visited a woman in her own neighborhood who was alone with "no food in the cupboard."

Urbanski says Rita made the woman a meal and asked friends if they would like to make extra meals to distribute, too.

The Urbanskis started helping 48 years ago and they've watched the founder's son, Vince Schiavone, grow up along with the organization.

"Caring for Friends was founded in 1974," says Vince Schiavone, who now serves as Chairman and CEO. "Mom started it in our kitchen."

Tony Urbanski says it was a good match for them since his wife, Arlene, "likes to cook."

Schiavone says his mom used to say, "No one should be hungry or alone in a world of caring people.'"

Caring for Friends is working to ensure that today.

"Our primary mission is the homebound seniors, disabled and veterans," says Schiavone.

He says it's a volunteer organization that has grown to "over 10,000 people.

Volunteers can prepare meals at home or make them on-site in the community kitchen.

"Every meal that we do is a protein, a starch and a vegetable," says Schiavone. "We'll package probably 1,000 meals today."

He says all the meals made by volunteers are "cooked with love."

"Typically, what people receive is a box of 14 meals," says Schiavone.

He says those meals are often supplemented with a bag of groceries.

"And they'll be delivered by people like the Urbanskis, all throughout our five counties," says Schiavone.

"Since we're retired, we both see our clients together," says Tony Urbanski. "It's fun to visit the clients."

Patricia McGrath, who lives in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia, used to make meals for Caring for Friends, but now she's on the receiving end. She says the meals are "a big relief."

"These are homemade meals," says McGrath. "That's why I like it."

She says her favorite meal is the mac and cheese.

Arlene Urbanski says they don't just take meals to people, they bring food and friendship to those they visit because they care.

"It's uplifting," she says.

"Give if you can and help us feed our neighbors," says Schiavone.