Grace UCC reaches hungry with food and fellowship with SOS

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Georgia Doyle from Grace United Church of Christ welcomes guests to Soup on Saturdays. The next one is April 5.

The doors are wide open the first Saturday of each month at Grace United Church of Christ. Soup and sandwiches are on the menu, free of charge, to anyone desiring a hot meal and Christian fellowship. The hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Reaching out to help those who are in need is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Bob Gearhart, consistory president.

A cross-section of the congregation has been involved since the program launch in April 2013.  The youth group came up with the idea of providing meals as a way to reach out to the community. They advertised Soup on Saturday (SOS) through flyers distributed to area churches, food pantries, schools and grocery stores. A professional sign was purchased to stand on the sidewalk in front of Grace at 128 E. Baltimore St. in the days leading up to the meal. Church members also passed out SOS business cards at food pantries, gas stations, motels and during Old Home Week.

The outreach was not as successful as anticipated, Gearhart said. The youth hoped other church youth groups would join in, and that more people would attend the meals. The turnout was small thoughout the summer. Then the teens went off to college.

However, Grace Church wanted the program to continue. Grace Snyder Circle took on the oversight. The 16 women split the duties, with some donating food and others serving the guests. SOS continues to be funded by the church and individual members.

At the December meal they gave SOS cards to an officer of the Greencastle Police Department who stopped in. While on walking patrol, he referred some people to the church, said Circle member Marg Stouffer. That day SOS served a family of five, two single women and a man and his daughter.

The word has gotten out recently, with 2014 monthly attendance at 15 or more.

“We feel we are making a difference,” said Stouffer. “Most of the people are local.”

Grace would like the number of visitors to explode.

“We all know there are people out there who are in need of a hot meal, a warm smile and fellowship with others,” Gearhart said.

“Community awareness and prayers are keys to our success.”

The next meal will be April 5.