Our trip to the soup kitchen

Today Isabel and I went to the soup kitchen in Gettysburg, PA to volunteer along with Isabel's Brownie troop. I have been to other soup kitchens before, but this one was interesting. Of course, there just happened to be a parade at the exact time that we had to be at the soup kitchen, so we had to park about 12 blocks away and walk in the freezing cold. I didn't know exactly where the place was, so I had to ask people. "Excuse me sir, do you know where the soup kitchen is?". Finally I came up to a woman that said she didn't know, but her church pastor would. She hurried me along to meet him and she yelled, "Do you know where the soup kitchen is? This poor woman and her daughter need to get there before it closes!" Isabel was embarrassed, but I told her that so many people actually DO need to get there before the soup kitchen closes so that they do not lose their lunch. No one should be embarrassed about needing a free lunch. I'm sure we all could use one every once in awhile!

So anyway, we finally trekked up to the back door of the place (these kind of places are always in the back to hide them from view) and a very friendly woman was there waiting for us. I told her about our adventures of getting there and she said that a lot of people don't know where the soup kitchen is, and wondered how we could change that. (signs maybe???) A few minutes later, the rest of the troop arrived and we headed downstairs to the basement (not only is it in the back, but also in the basement!)

It was actually quite cozy there in the actual dining area. All of the tables were decorated in Thanksgiving style vinyl table cloths with little turkey center pieces in the middle. Their meals were served restaurant style, where a volunteer carries out each plate already served to each guest sitting at the table. All the other soup kitchens I had been to were more cafeteria style. All utensils and plates were disposable, to save on permit costs and from buying so many heated dishwashers. Also, many of the guests have illnesses that apparently could cause problems if the utensils were not cleaned properly. The guests were always allowed seconds, because for many, this was their only meal of the day. In one week they serve a little over 200 guests. More guests in the summer than in the winter since many children eat lunch in school. Although, because of the economic climate, especially in this area, the soup kitchen has been busier than ever.

The brownie troop, being too young to do any real work, made a fruit salad instead. The soup kitchen has been trying to offer healthier food to the guests, since many are obese and unhealthy. According to their statistics, 1 in 5 guest has diabetes. Are they sick because they are poor and can't buy healthy food? Or are they poor because they are sick and have too many medical bills and can't work? That's the eternal question. We may not be able to answer this question, but we can offer better choices and nutrition education to people in both categories. This is another step that the soup kitchen in Gettysburg is trying to take. Each month they have 1 or 2 guests come in to talk to the soup kitchen patrons about healthy food alternatives. I thought that this was a wonderful idea. So many of my friends, family, and acquaintances tell me that they don't know how to buy or make healthy food. This should be something that is taught in grammar school! I commend the soup kitchen for sharing such priceless information with those that need it most.

When we were leaving, Isabel said that she would love to come back and help out at the soup kitchen some more. Regretfully, she has to be 12 years old to actually volunteer, and she only just turned 9. I told her that in a few years, we could go to the soup kitchen and help out as often as she liked. At this point she pointed to the "good deed" pin on her brownie uniform and said "I did a good deed" as she flipped it over for everyone to see. Yes you did do a good deed, Isabel, and I believe that you will have many more to share with the world.

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