New director for Downtown Soup Kitchen

New director for Downtown Soup Kitchen

When the directing opportunity arose in July, Mayers was not quite sure how she was going to fit it in with her already busy lifestyle she also manages the Casaday Costume Collection for South Bend Community School Corp. and is a business agent for local 187 International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

“This is the toughest job I’ve ever loved,” Mayers said of the volunteer position. “It’s one of those things that because you are not required to be here, you have to think about being here and how to fit it into the rest of your life. Once you’re here, it is so compelling to be here, to do this.”

Dave Loughlin, president of the soup kitchen’s board of directors, said a study reveals that the kitchen serves about 12,000 meals each year, which includes take home meals. That number has grown in recent years, he added, because of the state of the economy.

“We used to serve mostly cheap jerseys downtown folks,” Loughlin said. “But whole families are coming in now some people who used to have full time jobs.”

With the increase in meals, the soup kitchen’s needs have grown as well, Loughlin said, noting that the nonprofit once maintained a bank balance of some $20,000 but that amount has dwindled over the years to about $1,000.

The soup kitchen is a 301(c) operated by an all volunteer staff that includes assistance from many churches.

“So many (churches) help,” Loughlin said. “We (First United Methodist) happen to house it because of we are downtown and centrally located.”

Mayers said that her management style remains mostly “hands off,” although she has made it of great importance for the volunteers to respect all who come to the soup kitchen.

“I have tried to remind everyone here and established a policy where everyone who walks through that door is our guest. So just like if you had invited someone into your home, you serve them the best you have,” Mayers said.

In addition to being the cook and supervisor for the Monday serving, Mayers’ duties include determining the menu and necessary ingredients.

“Something I was instructed when I took over the job was to make sure I used everything that was donated to us into making soups. I’m having a little trouble with the apple sauce,” Mayers said.

On Fridays, Mayers shops at the Food Bank of Northern Indiana, where she buys meat and orders canned goods. Apart from food donations, monthly costs for the soup kitchen are not cheap about $1,500 per month to feed the guests.

Guests are welcome to eat as much soup as they desire. There is also garlic bread, desserts and even carryout bags containing three cups of soup and half a loaf of bread.

Bruce Wayne Arthur, 48, ate at the soup kitchen last Friday and appreciated the meal.

“I’m not picky. It’s all very good. I’m down here for just a couple of times a month,” Arthur said.

While Arthur is currently doing some work in construction, he said that things were easier for him before the economy dip. In either case, he understands the importance of giving to others. As a previous volunteer at a homeless center, Arthur said he only takes what he really needs from the soup kitchen.

“I really don’t take much of the carryout bags,” Arthur said. “Other people deserve more than I do. I was always taught not to be greedy. If there’s only a little there, why be selfish and take it when there are other people that would be happier with it?”.

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