SCRANTON – When Bobby Wolliver returned to Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen on July 31, the first thing he noticed was how bright the inside of the facility looked.

“It is wonderful. It’s brighter,” he said. “I’m happy to be home and back here again.”

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, leads a short prayer service prior to Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen reopening on Monday, July 31, 2023.

For ten weeks, the kitchen was closed for a “once-in-a-generation” renovation project. The nearly $2 million project involved replacing most kitchen equipment, expanding freezer space, creating handicap accessible bathrooms, creating a new front entrance along with painting and making the facility energy efficient.

“Every single ceiling has been replaced. Every light has been turned into an LED light, every wall has been painted,” Executive Director Rob Williams said. “It is exciting to look around the room and see our people where they are most comfortable.”

Albert Vosberg of West Scranton comes to Saint Francis Kitchen for a meal several times a week.

“I was blown away. It is amazing. It is like night and day. I just thank God that we have this place because without it a lot of people would go hungry,” he said. “It is not only the food, it is the comradery. Everybody that works here is like my family.”

Tania Durmiaki of Carbondale agreed.

“Some people live alone or they need to talk to people other than their family. It puts a smile on people’s faces,” she explained. “This is open to anyone.”

Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen serves 10 hot meals every week. They include a daily meal at 11 a.m. every day of the week (including weekends and holidays) and evening meals at 5 p.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Head chef Selena Hitchens stands in the newly renovated kitchen area.

Each meal includes a garden salad, fruit salad, protein, starch, vegetables, dessert and beverages.

The kitchen also provides hundreds of weekly meals that are distributed at parishes in Carbondale, Olyphant and Roaring Brook Township.

“It is a wonderful mission we have here,” volunteer Jane Roberts said.

Roberts, who was born and raised in Scranton, waited until the official grand reopening to see the completed renovation work.

“It is magnificent. It was needed. It is beyond what I expected. I love it,” she said.

Head chef Selena Hitchens was excited to get back into the kitchen and prepare the first meal for the community.

“It’s like feeling like a kid in a candy store, you know when you walk in and you see everything and your eyes just light up, that’s how it felt walking in here and seeing everything,” she said.

Monsignor Constantine V. Siconolfi founded Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen in 1978. In those 45 years, officials believe there has only been four missed meals.

None of those missed meals occurred during this latest renovation project.

Lackawanna College allowed the kitchen to utilize its facility to prepare meals in its commercial kitchen. Meals on Wheels of Northeastern Pennsylvania let the kitchen serve its weekday meals out of its facility in the 500-block of Wyoming Avenue.

“They did a lot for us to have the meals at the other location,” Durmiaki noted. “It was smaller but they did a lot.”

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, led a short prayer service before blessing the renovated facility ahead of its first meal.

“This is a great day for all of us. It is really beautiful and we’re very happy to be able to provide this to all of you,” Bishop Bambera said.

The bishop read a short Gospel passage and prayed for all those who helped make the renovations possible as well as all those who will benefit from the project.

“We ask you, Lord, to bless us and all who use this building. May all who come here know the presence of Christ, experience His compassion and grow in His love,” Bishop Bambera said.

Williams stressed that the mission of Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen continues to be providing a space for people to have a warm, nutritious meal, no matter their circumstances in life.

“By taking good care of them and loving them, we emphasize that our brothers and sisters in need have dignity and are deserving of a dignified meal,” Williams said.

With the renovation project now complete, Williams said Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen can now focus on possible future expansion.

“We have a really strong staff. We must discern God’s will for the future of this organization … I’m excited to see what God has in store for us,” he added.

SCRANTON – Nearly 40 years after Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen opened its doors in its current location, the facility is getting a “once in a generation renovation” to ensure its mission continues for decades to come.

The work, which is already underway, will be completed over a ten-week period. It should be finished by the end of July.

Exterior work is underway at Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen in Scranton for its “once in a generation renovation.” In addition to a new entrance and walkways, the interior of the Kitchen will also be upgraded. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

“This renovation will not only allow us to serve our brothers and sisters in need in a dignified way for another generation but will prepare us for future expansion,” Rob Williams, Executive Director of Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen, said. “This organization is primed and ready to serve God and His people in ways that we cannot yet imagine. We were founded by and through God’s inspiration and we will continue to serve Him and His beloved people in every way possible.”

The Kitchen currently serves ten meals to the community each week and that service will continue uninterrupted – but the meals will be prepared and served in different locations while renovations are underway.


Starting May 19, all weekday meals (11 a.m. midday meal on weekdays and 5 p.m. dinner on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) will be served at ‘The Space at Olive’ at 541 Wyoming Avenue in Scranton. ‘The Space at Olive’ is only one block away from Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen’s current location.

“Part of what we provide for the community is the ability for our brothers and sisters to sit around the table together and enjoy comradery with one another,” Williams explained. “We want to keep that sense of community as much as we can through this renovation process and the dining room at ‘The Space at Olive’ will allow us to do that.”

The 11 a.m. midday meal on Saturday and Sunday will be served in ‘grab and go’ containers from Saint Francis food pantry at 504 Penn Avenue in Scranton.

During the renovation project, all of the Kitchen’s meals will be prepared at Lackawanna College.

“Lackawanna College is gifting us with the use of its commercial kitchen for the ten weeks. They have been amazing to us. They are also letting us put two Road Scholar trucks on campus for dry storage and freezer space,” Williams added.

While unexpected challenges may arise during this process, Williams has been working to ensure a smooth transition of services for the last several months.

“The idea is to keep everything as close to normal as possible,” Williams said. “Since 1978, we have only missed four meals and we won’t miss a meal because of this project. There will be ten meals a week straight through.”


When Williams took over as Executive Director of Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen in August 2019, he quickly realized renovations were needed after fixing leaks in the facility’s roof several times.

In June 2022, the roof was completely fixed and new vents and rain gutters added, paving the way to the rest of the renovation work to begin both inside and outside the Kitchen.

Visible signs of the renovation work are always underway – front walkways are already being fixed and a glass enclosure in the front of the building has been taken down.

“There was a glass enclosure in the front that was always damp and musty. We will have a new entrance but the roof will hang over another eight feet. It will have a stucco-look like the rest of the building with stone accents,” Williams said. “The façade is going to be really beautiful.”

Inside the Kitchen is where most of the changes will be taking place.

Throughout the building there will be new ceilings, LED lighting and paint and all of the appliances in the Kitchen will either be replaced or rebuilt. All of the Kitchen’s public bathrooms will become handicap accessible, a new distinct laundry room will be created and the Kitchen will get new refrigeration and freezer spaces.

“There are times when people offer us 850 boxes of meat and we either have to say no to that donation or we have to borrow space in Pittston. Increasing the freezer space in this building will gear us up for another generation of service,” Williams explained.

While the Kitchen is being renovated, a local artist will also restore a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, which has a broken hand and several cracks, as well as a statue of Saint Anthony.

Monsignor Constantine V. Siconolfi founded Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen in 1978. Its current building was dedicated in 1986.

Williams, who refers to himself simply as the “current keeper of the vision” of Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen, says the renovation project is an exciting opportunity. He said it would not be possible without community support.

“I am deeply grateful to our board members, our benefactors, our staff members and volunteers, who partnering with us are animating this extraordinary mission that we share,” Williams explained.