OCEANSIDE — The Sanctuary at St. Mary’s by the Sea was filled to its 400 person capacity with those who came to honor the life of Harold Kutler who founded Brother Benno’s Foundation with his wife, Kay, who passed away in 2012.
“Harold was a teacher par excellence. Not in words. He came to serve, not to be served,” said Fr. Abbot Charles Wright of the Prince of Peace Abbey who delivered the eulogy.
“He learned at the foot of the master. He was loved personified.”
He said that Kutler understood that our greatest need is to give.
“Harold knew that was the secret weapon and that is what made Brother Benno’s what it today,” he said.
The organization which was founded 35 years ago, feeds up to 250 people a day, six days a week who number among the homeless and working poor, many with children.
And very appropriately, the abbot read from Mathew 25:36, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you took me in. In so much as you have done it onto the least of my brethren you have done it unto me.”
“Clothe me. Feed me. That is the mantra of Brother Benno’s,” said Shannon Mann after the services, who said she volunteered before she had her three children.
“I volunteered to help them, but they helped me,” she said. “His life should be celebrated, both their lives (Kay) should be celebrated.”
In addition to feeding the guests, and that is what they are called, there is a substance abuse recovery program at the foundation.
“My husband and I went through the Brother Benno’s treatment. Our lives have completely changed,” said Patricia Van Horne of Oceanside outside the church. “My husband has been sober for 2 ½ years and me for a year. Our lives are so much better.”
“He was just always humble and kind, always,” Denise Seymour, volunteer coordinator
at the center.
The organization is named for a Benedictine Monk Benno Garrity who distributed bread to street people. Harold and Kay opened a soup kitchen in a little space in downtown Oceanside and named it for him.
The first meal was served on October 21, 1983, with Brother Benno bringing a huge pot of soup he made himself. As time passed, the organization outgrew its original spot and now is in a warehouse on Production Avenue in Oceanside.
After the church services the crowd met at the center.
“The high point is that the microphone was open and people spoke about their experience with Harold,” said Darryl Harris, operations manager of the center.
Besides feeding the hungry with hot meals, the organization provides sack lunches six days a week, plus monthly food boxes to low-income families, seniors over 60, and the disabled. The services have been expanded to include providing hot showers, haircuts, clothing, laundry facilities, and aid to veterans, prescription assistance and rent and utility assistance.
For the youngsters involved, they offer a reading program for children as well as scholarships.
Kutler passed away as a result of a fall at his home on March 6. He was 91.
The services were held on March 17.
“Godspeed Harold,” Abbot Charles said.
Brother Benno’s Center is at 3260 Production Ave., Oceanside, 92058. To learn more visit www.brotherbenno.org or call (760) 439-1244.