Soup kitchen soldiers on
St. Stephen –
“The response has been heartwarming,” said Jocelyn Groom, one of the organizers of the soup kitchen at the Anglican Parish Church of St. Stephen. “So many people thought so much of Joyce, they had to keep it going.”
Groom is speaking of soup kitchen founder, Joyce DiPaolo, who passed away in 2016. The idea started 11 years ago, when power rates across the province spiked. Peter Mills, the minister at the time, arranged a meeting, to see what the church might do to help those with limited funds, who would be the hardest hit throughout the winter months. DiPaolo attended the meeting, and when the soup kitchen idea was suggested, she took on the role of organizer.
“We had no idea how many would be at that first Friday,” Groom reminisces. “We had quite a lot of food left over that first time. But word got out quickly, and we’ve been serving an average of 20 people a week since then.”
Last year, the group served around 400 meals at the church during the soup kitchen, “but it’s not a true number,” said Groom. “We send leftovers home with our guests, so those are meals as well.”
Originally run by members of the church volunteering their time, the base has expanded over the years, and now volunteers come from all over the area. Groom admits that forging ahead without DiPaolo at the helm was tough, but the tremendous support made the difference. “Joan Williams stepped up and got involved, and we saw the same commitment from the community, even without Joyce,” said Groom.
Groom is still amazed by the efforts of the community to help. “Some come from other churches, some come from no church at all. The Catholic church does a meal a month, switching between Holy Rosary and Milltown Catholic,” said Groom. “The sorority Beta Sigma Phi does a couple every year as well. The support has been incredible.
“The ladies of the Little Ridge church group make cookies, and there is a local lady in her nineties who knit mittens for our guests. They appreciate getting little gifts.”
The soup kitchen is totally volunteer operated, and Groom says the door is always open to anyone who wants to help. Whether it ‘s making a batch of soup, baked goods, a casserole, or helping wash dishes, “the more the merrier,” smiles Groom.
The soup kitchen runs every Friday, with tea and coffee available by 10:30, and the main meal being served at noon, from November to April 30, and they prepare for an average of 25 people each week. To donate food or time, contact Jocelyn Groom at 466-3758.
Groom smiles again. “Anyone in need is welcome.”