Howard Chapel UMC’s Saturday soup kitchen serves love, warm meals
By Kara Witherow, Editor
The smell of onions, carrots, celery, and tomatoes simmering on the stove is a familiar one at Howard Chapel United Methodist Church.
Every Saturday morning for the past 25 years women from the church’s United Methodist Women’s circle have chopped, stirred, and poured their hearts into the soup kitchen ministry, feeding, loving, and caring for more than 100 hungry men, women, and children.
Volunteers from Dublin First United Methodist Church, Pine Forest United Methodist Church and other area churches and organizations round out the meal, making sandwiches and supplying crackers and dessert.
What started in 1991 as a twice-monthly outreach ministry to the community quickly grew into a weekly ministry. Howard Chapel UMC leaders saw the need but didn’t have the manpower to open the kitchen each week, but when then-pastor Rev. Sam Ghartey learned of Dublin First UMC’s soup kitchen, the two congregations decided to merge the ministries and open it weekly.
Howard Chapel UMC’s soup kitchen is a popular spot on Saturdays and has faithful regulars who show up each week.
“We’re well known in the community,” said Margaret Wheeler, an active member of the church’s UMW who has served at the soup kitchen since it began. “When we aren’t open because of a funeral or bad weather they know it!”
Serving soup kitchen patrons often makes Wheeler think of Matthew 25:35, where Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…”
“They’re God’s people and there is a need,” she said. “And you have this good feeling knowing that you are helping somebody.”
Many of the soup kitchen’s regular diners are children who receive free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches at school and older guests who have meals delivered via Meals on Wheels, said longtime volunteer and Howard Chapel UMC member Della Fielding.
“They don’t get those meals on the weekends, and sometimes that soup and sandwich is the first meal they get on Saturday,” Fielding said. “It’s important to give them a hot meal that day. I want to know that they get at least one hot meal during the weekend.”
Fielding, who celebrated her 76th birthday last month, has had to put her soup-making on hold for now because of a recent knee replacement, but she expects to be back in the kitchen soon, making her special beef vegetable soup.
“I like helping people, and this is one way I can,” she said. “It has strengthened my faith and has become a part of my Saturdays. It’s something I enjoy doing.”
Wheeler says that they will continue serving soup and sandwiches for as long as there’s a need.
“Christ said to go out and make disciples, but first you have to show them love and show that you care and show that you want to help them.”