Rich aromas spill outside of Heavenly Made Soup Kitchen twice a month
Volunteers have a blessing before serving food at the Heavenly Made Soup Kitchen in the First Church of God and Saints of Christ Sunday in Hagerstown. (By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer / December 15, 2012)
A woman holds her young son, an elderly man stands alone and a middle-aged couple huddles close together, guarding against the raw December air.
The doors will open at 4:30 p.m., but people have started arriving well in advance, not for church services or a music program, but for the most basic of needs — an opportunity to eat a hot, homecooked meal.
On this particular Sunday, the rich aromas of chicken and rice, steamers and vegetables spill outside.
It brings a smile to the face of the little boy, who tenderly places a kiss on his mother’s cheek.
“It smells good, Mommy,” he says, almost in a whisper.
Hagerstown has a checkerboard of free food programs Monday through Friday. But the First Church of God and Saints of Christ Church at 100 S. Mulberry St. offers something different. It serves meals twice a month on Sunday.
It’s the Heavenly Made Soup Kitchen and as far as organizers know, it’s the only place in town where those in need of food can enjoy a meal on the weekend.
This month marks the second anniversary of the soup kitchen, which started because of tough economic times, Director Tamar Guy said.
“A lot of people are struggling to get by,” she said. “So when the church began talking about offering a soup kitchen, I jumped right in and started helping out.”
A graduate of Penn State University, where she majored in hotel, restaurant and institutional management, Guy said volunteering for the community project is a perfect fit.
“I know about nutrition, portions, even food allergies,” she said. “I also know the importance of having a homecooked meal, not something out of a can. So everything that we serve is made from scratch. We always cook freshly made.”
Although the soup kitchen brings in people who often don’t know where their next meal will come from, Guy said there are no restrictions on who is served.
“We welcome everybody and anybody, whether you have a job or not,” she said. “Some people join us who simply don’t like to cook and know they’ll get a good meal here.”
On average, Guy said, the soup kitchen serves about 25 to 50 people on each of the two Sundays it’s offered.
“The highest number of people was on Easter Sunday of 2011, when we hit 75,” she said.
Although the soup kitchen has been open for two years, Guy said she believes many people aren’t aware that it exists.
“I’m currently working with the Washington County Council of Churches about spreading the word that we’re here,” she said. “I’m also starting to get in touch with local agencies and we’ve been distributing fliers throughout the community. We really haven’t done any formal advertising. It’s mostly been word of mouth.”
“We’re blessed to have a facility to do this,” said Pastor Mark Guy, Tamar’s father. “The decision to help those in our community was an easy one for us to make.”