Volunteers brighten Westminster soup kitchen Diners appreciate change in menu SOUTHWEST--Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

January 26, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,STAFF WRITER

Two groups from South Carroll carried culinary kindness to a Westminster soup kitchen this month. They provided service with smiles, variety to the menu and friendship to the needy.

Several minutes before noon every Saturday, Westminster Church of the Brethren opens its doors to the hungry and the homeless and usually serves a hot dog and soup lunch. With the help of a few volunteers, Carl and Betsy Yount staff the free kitchen.

The past two weeks, the Younts have left the serving to Holy Spirit Lutheran Church and It's Elementary, a county chapter of the Child Study Association of Maryland.

"It's good to have you all here," Mr. Yount, who knows most patrons by name, told those who had come to eat. "We have a tremendous caring group here today to serve you."

Ministry is not confined to the four walls of church, said Carol Deal, a member of Holy Spirit in Eldersburg, whose members served lunch Jan. 16.

"The idea of social ministry is to reach out," she said.

"We are all Christian families and we have all been hungry before," said Pam Short, whose It's Elementary group took over the soup kitchen Saturday.

Not a hot dog could be found on either day.

Two weeks ago, crusty rolls stuffed with tuna salad, bowls of steaming soup and servings of colorful gelatin dessert filled the plates that lined the counter.

Members of the kitchen crew fidgeted as they waited for the patrons.

"Looks like we are ready," said Jana Bergstrom from behind serving dishes. "We are just a little nervous since this is our first time."

Within minutes, the group was ladling soup and refilling glasses like seasoned restaurant employees.

"I am not looking," shouted Sherry Graham into the kitchen as she reached for another bowl of soup. "I hope somebody is back there."

The diners said they were prepared for the standard fare and were pleased with the menu change.

The Holy Spirit group also doled out dessert from seven cartons of cakes, pies and cookies donated by Martin's Food Market in Eldersburg.

"You have any birthday cakes back there?" asked Ashley DeLawder. "I am 8 today."

Within minutes, the little girl heard an impromptu rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" and had her choice of several cakes.

"Can I take your picture, Ashley?" asked Ms. Deal.

The child beamed happily for the camera. She said she was too excited to finish her soup.

The ministry group mingled with diners, offering warm handshakes. Bea Grant kept a crying baby occupied so his mother could eat. Leonard Williams, a Social Security employee, promised help to a patron having a problem getting disability benefits.

"Anyone can serve a meal and keep their distance," Ms. Deal said. "We want to carry on a conversation with these people."

Elaine Andrew walked among the tables and ladled second servings from a large soup pot. Cheryl Williams passed out take-home bags with "stick-to-your-ribs" stew.

"We need people to mingle and show friendship to these people," Mr. Yount said. "Many of them have just lost their way a wee bit."

Ms. Deal said several South Carroll groups help each other with outreach projects and pass the word around whenever a need arises.

On Saturday, members of It's Elementary also offered a different menu when they manned the soup kitchen.

"We wanted to vary the menu, too," said Sharon Allia. The parent group opted for Italian cuisine. Several members rose early Saturday to bake lasagna.

One 9-year-old child seemed a little unsure as she faced an unfamiliar heaping plate of lasagna.

"I wasn't going to eat anything today," said the little girl, who comes to the luncheon every week with her father. With a little encouragement, she found the cheese and meat casserole to her liking and returned for seconds.

The dish was so popular that many patrons asked for carryouts.

"How much would you like?" asked Ms. Short.

"Enough to feed a family of four, if you can spare it," said one woman.

"Next time, we will know to bring containers, so people can take these meals home," Ms. Short said.

Both groups volunteered to serve more meals to the county's needy.

Both groups also brought children along for the luncheons.

"I want to teach my children how to help others, too," said Ms. Deal.

"This is one way for the children to get involved and see action toward solution," Ms. Short said.

Last week, four children of It's Elementary parents moved a dessert cart around the lunch room and described the sweets for diners.

"They want more bread, but I can't get them to take more dessert," said Matthew Reese, 8. "They must be full from all the lasagna."

Ms. Deal urged others to take the first step and help the needy.

"The response we get is wonderful," she said. "The need we meet is great."

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