The INN was founded in 1983 as a single soup kitchen run by a small group of concerned volunteers. Working at a church in Hempstead, the volunteers discovered that not only were there large numbers of hungry people on Long Island, but that individuals working together could make a difference in their lives.
What began as a tiny seed quickly grew as other communities discovered that hungry people existed in their community, too. As word spread of the success of the Hempstead soup kitchen, The INN became a magnet for individuals who wanted to help those who were hungry in their own communities. By sharing their knowledge, the volunteers began to form an interfaith network of soup kitchens to feed hungry Long Islanders. Soon after the Hempstead soup kitchen began operations, others opened in Long Beach, Freeport and Central Islip. Each of these soup kitchens quickly filled a desperate need that existed in these communities. Today, there are a total of 14 soup kitchens in 21 locations, operating as part of The INN’s network across Long Island. More than 5,000 people are fed each week.
From this simple start and through the vision and determination of a small group of dedicated volunteers, The INN has grown to become the largest private social service agency of its kind on Long Island. The Hempstead soup kitchen has grown into a multifaceted effort that remains grounded on a single principle – that everyone would be treated with dignity and respect. Anyone who comes to The INN’s soup kitchens receives a hot, nutritious meal, a warm welcome and access to whatever additional support services are available. The volunteers soon found that dealing with hunger was only one of the problems facing the soup kitchen guests. Many of the children and adults who visited The INN were also homeless.
The INN responded to this problem by opening its first emergency shelter in 1984. The INN began to plan and institute a series of wide-ranging programs to help people from all over Long Island who were plagued by hunger and homelessness. The story continues, over thirty years later, with soup kitchens, emergency shelters and a long-term housing program.
The INN is a working model of how to unite the community to overcome the challenge of hunger and homelessness, here on Long Island.