Victoria Garloch, Founder of Warwick Community Kitchen
This month’s Hudson Valley Hero is an Orange County teen who opened a thriving soup kitchen
Victoria Garloch was afraid. It was November 2010, and the Sugar Loaf teenager was in New York City for Midnight Run, a late-night homeless relief effort, as a volunteer with the Warwick Ecumenical Council. She grew even more fearful with the nocturnal appearance of an amputee in a wheelchair — until the homeless man asked her for the cup of soup she was offering.
“It gave me a good feeling,” she recalls. “I had run food drives before, but this was my ‘aha’ moment. I decided that, for my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I wanted to help my own community through a soup kitchen.” A year later, at just 14, the precocious Garloch launched the Warwick Community Kitchen, a mission of Vision Community Church, inside the former Pine Island Elementary School. In 2013, her efforts were acknowledged when she became the youngest person to receive the Orange County Human Rights Commission Award. She also received the commission’s scholarship, and to date is the only person to have garnered both awards.
Once a month — on Friday nights from September through April, on Sundays from May through August — nearly 150 locals in need, many of them migrant workers from the Black Dirt region, gather for complimentary buffet-style dinners that run the gamut from fish and chips to sesame chicken and pork fried rice. Although Garloch makes flyers and distributes them to area food pantries to spread the word, she stresses that these meals are simply “for anyone looking for fellowship.”
For Garloch, the dinners are even more meaningful because they are a family affair. Her father, who has a culinary degree, presides over the kitchen; her mother she deems “the backbone of the operation. I call myself the CEO and she’s the COO.” This month, the teen heads to the College of St. Rose in Albany to pursue her dream of becoming a high school biology and special education teacher.
Meet more of our local heroes here or nominate your own below.