Soup Stop with help from What’s Cookin’ helps families in need

A mother and her eight children walked through the doors of Soup Stop, just wanting a hot meal. No one knew her story but, without questions, she and her children were served.

Mary Cunningham said she remembers that family and many others like theirs.

“The families are very grateful. They just need to know that someone cares,” said Cunningham, member of the Board of Directors of Soup Stop.

Soup Stop is a non-profit organization that serves food to those in need with no questions asked.

Soup Stop, with the help of What’s Cookin’, has been serving meals from the basement of the First Presbyterian Church, located at 311 Seventh Street, since 2001.

What’s Cookin’, a restaurant directly across the street from the church, offered their cooking services when they found out Soup Stop didn’t have the proper licensing to prepare meals.

“Soup Stop wouldn’t be what it is today without What’s Cookin,'” said Mary-Nance Miller, chair of Soup Stop.

Miller started volunteering at Soup Stop in 2008 when she retired from her job of almost 29 years as an office manager at Coles County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“I wanted to retire to something, not from something,” Miller said.

Miller became chair of Soup Stop two months ago. She said her days are busy but being involved with the organization gives her a sense of fulfillment.

The Soup Stop serves about 350 people a month. The number of people has doubled since the recession started.

“The people that come in are my motivation. They are so grateful to just have a hot meal,” Miller said.

The Soup Stop is entirely funded by donations and volunteers.

Miller said there was a time when the organization only had $3000 for food and they spent $6000, leaving them in debt.

“We were really getting in trouble,” she said, “but the donations helped a lot.”

The organization plans on having a musical fundraiser in December.

“We have to have a way to raise money and fundraisers are a great way,” Miller said.

Sam Dunifer, Soup Stop volunteer, also started volunteering after retiring as a teacher for 35 years.

Dunifer said she is motivated to volunteer because of the relationships she shares with the regulars and the other volunteers.

“Volunteering just makes me feel good,” she said.

Miller encourages Eastern students to donate any non-perishable items.

Students can also volunteer at Soup Stop.

Food is served from 11am-1pm, Monday through Friday.

“These are wonderful people that need help,” Miller said. “They are just down on their luck.”

Zinika Livingston can be reached at 581-7942 or [email protected].