Whose blessings are greater—the giver or the receiver? This question is constantly at the surface as work with our local soup kitchen is undertaken. In the past several weeks, these blessings have been particularly evident as those who regularly work with Shelbyville Community Soup Kitchen have had the privilege of watching young people interact with and aid at-risk individuals in our community. Nothing quite comes as close to perfection as having adults and youth team up together with a common goal of selflessly helping others.
Gratefully, soup kitchen has been the recipient of many items donated by the community, which are then passed along to those in need. Kids are also a huge part of that! Last year, SCHS Student Council donated their Great Canned Food Drive non-perishable foods and toiletries to soup kitchen. These items continue to be distributed to help with supplemental feeding for families. As we move toward the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, with these items dwindling, Community Middle School Student Council recently collected and donated 2900 canned foods which will be packed into holiday giving boxes for soup kitchen families. Recognizing that cans can be tricky for a homeless population to utilize, Bedford County’s 4-H Honor Club collected and donated can openers to alleviate that problem.
With two weekly meals now being served to soup kitchen guests (Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings) it requires many willing hands in service. Never fear, as long as Bedford County youth are near! Almost from its inception, young people have been an integral part of soup kitchen. Many individuals, church youth groups, club members and others have offered themselves in a myriad of ways. Kids have helped organize clothing in blazing-hot conditions, helped with a recent fundraiser mule show, helped cook and serve meals, provided Christmas and Halloween treats, and the list continues. In October alone, SCHS Future Farmers of America loaded, transported and served 180 meals on a recent Tuesday night, following closely on the heels of energetic and excited groups of adults and youth from Normandy First Baptist Church and First United Methodist Church, who also cooked and served evening meals.
An exciting new project surfaced which is combining youth and adults learning new skills as they work together toward making durable sleeping mats for the homeless. The idea was born in Fleece on the Duck Fiber Guild and is readily growing avid apprentices. The mats are made of disposable plastic shopping bags that are generally discarded or recycled. It takes from 500-700 bags and approximately 80-100 hours to make one mat. When the fiber guild ladies decided they would work on this project, it became evident that having others help to cut the bags and create what they term “plarn,” to use in crocheting the mats, would be more than helpful. Enter youth, again! SCHS National Honor Society and 4-H Honor Club jumped in to help cut and ready the “plarn,” with some youth even wishing to learn to crochet the mats. Fast-forward to October 12, when the first sleeping mat was given to a homeless man during soup kitchen. This man’s gratitude, as he accepted it with tears filling his eyes and thankfulness on his tongue harks back to the question—whose blessings are greater, the giver or the receiver?
The faithful and continued support of this community, both youth and adults, enables soup kitchen to help families who struggle with the uncertainty of where their next meal will come from or where they will find to rest for the night. As we move into the cold season, caring for the homeless and vulnerable can become an even greater challenge. If we love our neighbors as ourselves and give in whatever ways we can, together we will continue to be a community that proves its generosity and compassion to those who need it most. Any donations to help with the mission of our local soup kitchen may be sent to:
Shelbyville Community Soup Kitchen
122 Public Square, North
Shelbyville, Tennessee 37160