GREENFIELD — With chilly weather already here and Thanksgiving just around the corner, our thoughts naturally turn to warm meals, good fellowship and counting our blessings. This year St. Michael parishioner Martha Rawe is giving thanks that in Greenfield, a soup ministry that she helped to start has been warming people’s stomachs — and hearts — for 10 years and counting.
In November 2009, Rawe and some other women of St. Michael Parish began preparing and distributing soup to people in the Greenfield community. “In the beginning, it was the ladies who gathered the basic ingredients — celery, carrots, onions — and someone always had beef soup bones or chicken or potatoes to provide for the base,” Rawe says.
When deciding who would receive their finished product, the women simply compiled a list of people who benefit from or appreciate some soup and made the deliveries themselves. “Over time the list has always included people who lived alone, those who were older, those who had surgery or some other sickness, those who had a new baby, or those who were newcomers to the community,” Rawe says.
Soon, the soup group began to receive monetary donations. Things went well for about five years. However, by December 2014, the donation fund was almost depleted, and many of the original group had either passed away, moved, or could no longer help with the making and delivery of the soup. “I really thought the time had come to conclude the ministry; that its time was over. However, one week after the decision was made, two donations totaling $300 were received, so I figured that was a sign that we should continue,” Rawe says.
In fact, God has continually provided various kinds of help, she adds, including more adults to help make the soup and eventually teens to make the deliveries. “As the years went on, we needed people to deliver the soup. I thought about it and contacted the Greenfield High School principal. He agreed that the teens should get involved. So, the delivery became a project of the National Honor Society and the Student Council. The students use the deliveries as a community service project. It’s also an opportunity for them to meet older members of the community that aren’t related to them.”
Today the soups are made and delivered once a month from September through April. The soup-makers — both women and men — gather by 8:30 a.m. on “soup day” to peel, chop, slice and dice the ingredients. A few hours later students arrive at St. Michael’s Hall to make the deliveries.
About 40 to 45 jars of soup are made and distributed. The soups — chicken noodle, beef vegetable, potato or hamburger — are usually made on a rotating basis, with Rawe deciding what kind depending on what ingredients have been donated. The soup has no added salt for those with dietary restrictions. When it is cooked, volunteers ladle it into quart canning jars or instant tea jars. The people who receive the soup, often along with a chocolate chip muffin, are always grateful.
“You know, we are often asked, ‘Is there a recipe?’ The answer is yes. It is: see a need, gather the people, do it with love, give as a gift,” Rawe says. “It’s just very flexible and spontaneous. I can’t explain it. This soup ministry really just happens — and people are always grateful.”