With a motto of giving people a hand up, not a hand out, the Ladysmith Soup Kitchen is serving roughly 100 people a week. And getting a helping hand from the community to do so.
The Ladysmith Soup Kitchen started April 1 and currently runs Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-5 p.m. at the back of Eagles Hall (accessed by the back parking lot).
“We make it restaurant-style,” said volunteer Steve Sharpe, pastor of The Rock Christian Fellowship. “Clients come and sit, and we offer them tea, coffee and water. There are two choices of sandwiches. We make four loaves of grilled cheese, and we usually have two kinds of soup. We started out where people would just come in and leave, but now, they come in and talk at the table. We know them all by name when they come through the door now. There’s a real sense of community now.”
People who come into the Soup Kitchen are given all the soup and sandwiches they can eat there, and they also receive a soup and sandwich to take home for the next day.
Sharpe says they see an average of 50 people per day, with as many as 70 people coming in on a busy day.
In the beginning, the Soup Kitchen received $2,000 from the Town of Ladysmith grants-in-aid program to start out. The Ladysmith Food Bank helped get the Soup Kitchen started for a 10-week period until June 30. The Soup Kitchen is a program of the Ladysmith Resources Centre Association (LRCA).
Sharpe says they’re working on a budget, and they try to feed an average of 400 people a month on a budget of $600 a month.
“The problem is we’re growing and expanding,” he said. “We’re really maxing out expenses. The Eagles have given us reduced rent to help out, and they’ve been a gracious host.”
Many of the volunteers come from local churches.
“We have a whole range of age and experience volunteering,” said Sharpe. “High school kids volunteer, and parents bring their little kids.”
Sharpe says their clients range from people with addictions, mentally or physically disabled people and the working poor to people who are on welfare, elderly people who are lonely and single-parent families.
The Ladysmith Dads Drop-In recently donated $596.50 to the Ladysmith Soup Kitchen. They raised the money by giving out hot dogs by donation, sponsored by 49th Parallel Grocery.
Dale Gisborne, one of the facilitators, heard a Soup Kitchen was being formed and wanted to help.
“I figured the Soup Kitchen needed help and exposure,” he said. “We wanted people to know about them and thought we need people in our community to know this is happening.”
Gisborne says the Dads Drop-In will do another hot dog sale in January to continue to raise money and awareness for the Soup Kitchen.
“We’re really appreciative of all the help we can get with food and funding going forward,” said Sharpe.
Sharpe says the Soup Kitchen is looking at different ways to fundraise, and they’ve been getting a lot of great community support. A lot of the baking is made by volunteers, and they receive donations from grocery stores, including 49th Parallel Grocery and Save-On-Foods.
“It’s a great community for that kind of thing,” said Sharpe.
Sharpe says their dream is that one day, they’ll have a permanent facility where they could operate a soup kitchen every day, and they’d be able to move the tables to the sides and lay mattresses down to turn it into a shelter in the evenings.
Because the Soup Kitchen is a program of the LRCA, people who donate can receive charitable receipts. To donate food items, people can contact the LRCA, Sharpe or Jacqueline Caro. For more information, call the LRCA at 250-245-3079.
Next month, the Celebration of Light on Dec. 19 at Eagles Hall will be supporting the soup kitchen, with food donations going to the Food Bank and cash donations going to the Soup Kitchen.