Former Madison resident Monsignor Vincent E. Puma opened a soup kitchen called Eva's Kitchen in the basement of an old convent in Paterson in 1982.
It fed 30 people people the first day, and eventually grew into Eva's Village, a social service organization that now has housing for about 300 people, serves 1,000 meals a day and operates a clinic that sees about 5,000 patients a year.
Puma—who spent most of his young adult life in Madison, graduated from , served as pastor of in the 1970s, and earned a master's degree from and lectured at —died Saturday at St. Vincent’s Nursing Home in Cedar Grove, according to his obituary on the Eva's Village website. He was 85.
Puma was profiled in the New York Times in 1996, where one donor described him as the kind of person who "brings the shovel" to get projects done.
"From a soup kitchen to this facility is quite remarkable," Walter Yetnikoff told the newspaper. "And although one man doesn't do it alone, to a great extent he is the guiding spirit. God can move mountains but you better bring a shovel, and he brings the shovel."
Officials at Eva's Village said they are indebted to Puma and inspired by him for showing them how to help the poor. They said Puma was known for saying, "When you take someone’s hand you cannot drop it until they are safe from poverty."
Visiting hours are scheduled for 2 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday at the M. John Scanlan Funeral Home, 781 Newark Pompton Turnpike, Pompton Plains, and 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday at , 26 Green Village Road, Madison.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Vincent Martyr Parish following visitation. Interment will follow at the church cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Eva’s Village.
Puma made his final visit to Eva’s Village on April 19 to celebrate its 30th Anniversary and to dedicate a recent kitchen expansion.