September 14, 2011 // Local

Soup kitchen responds to call of the beatitudes: Feed the hungry

Fundraiser planned oct. 15 to support the kitchen

FORT WAYNE — St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen is feeding the hungry in greater numbers than ever before in its history, having served more than 100,000 meals already this year.

Pastoral associate Tony Henry says the situation is “real serious right now.” People are already strug- gling financially in the current economy and with winter approaching, he fears that things will get “pretty desperate.”

Henry notes that a visit to the soup kitchen often provides the only food a needy person receives each day so it is a vital way station for the poor.

The ministry began on a small scale in 1975 when St. Mary’s then-pastor, the late Father Tom O’Connor, began serving soup to the poor from the back porch of his rectory. Today it is a huge operation run out of a large commercial kitch- en at the parish under the direction of cook Diane Day and dozens of volunteers.

Each morning Day prepares at least two 60-gallon containers of soup for lunch. Lately, however, the numbers of those requesting food have risen dramatically and usually a third 60-gallon container is needed. It is served carry-out style in a 16-ounce styrofoam cup with bread and milk and sometimes sweets like pie, cake or donuts. The kitchen is open every day and people begin lining up early. One thousand to

1,200 lunches are distributed daily. “They get a good meal,” says Henry. The soup kitchen has always

served primarily single men, the unemployed and the homeless.

Lately, Henry says, “The face of the poor is changing … we are seeing more homeless, no question about that,” but also families, the mentally ill and the working poor.

However, Henry applauds the pragmatic manner in which the working poor use the soup kitchen to make their money stretch so they can buy gas in order to reach those jobs.

Carolyn Ransom, who works in the kitchen, also reports a dramatic increase in those seeking assistance.

“We’re seeing more families than ever before,” Ransom says. And the numbers are especially high at the end of the month when people’s paychecks and food stamps run out.

She points out that the soup kitchen is supported 100 percent by the community and no government funding is involved.

“I’m always amazed when people donate,” Ransom says.

Area farmers and gardeners often bring in their produce — tomatoes, potatoes and onions are plentiful now. Donations of pasta, noodles, rice and barley are always welcome. Generous merchants like Meijer, Kroger and Wal-Mart help keep food costs down with their donations and St. Vincent and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishes often have food drives to help the kitchen.

Henry says, “We love our soup kitchen” and to show gratitude for the community’s support, St. Mary’s is doing its part by planning a fundraiser for Saturday, Oct. 15, from 7-11:30 p.m. in Oechtering Hall at the parish.

Parishioners Dottie Carpenter and Val Vorndran are co-chairmen of the upcoming event, which will feature Spike and the Bulldogs, a popular local band with a huge following. Food will be available, along with a cash bar, a 50-50 drawing and a silent auction. Vorndran says tickets are $10 a piece and may be purchased at the door, or a table of eight can be guaranteed and reserved in advance for $120.

The Knights of Columbus will donate and prepare the food, the band is performing free of charge, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go directly to the operation of the soup kitchen.

Carpenter points out that the cost of maintaining the ministry is high and that all donations are wel- come. Time, talent and treasure are all needed.

Ransom says volunteers are always welcome in the kitchen and those interested may call her at (260) 750-8373. “It’s a fun environment to work in,” she says.

Monetary contributions may be mailed to St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 1101 Lafayette St., P.O. Box 11383, Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

Christ calls us to feed the hungry, Henry says, and calls the ministry of the soup kitchen “grace-filled.”

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.