For the past three years Stone Soup Social, has operated a weekly drop-in lunch, available for everyone free of charge. Donations are accepted for the meal, but there are no set fees. An average of 150 people come to the First Presbyterian Church each Tuesday between noon and 5 p.m. for a choice of six different homemade soups created by Mary Ann Regelin, John Brandt, John and Loretta Arient (recent choices were Split Pea and ham, Dill Pickle, Cheeseburger, Depression Era, Garlic Cauliflower and Potato Ham), along with breads, deserts and beverages.

Members of the Stone Soup committee have recognized that there are people who need extra help sometimes. John Arient, who leads the project, says “There are people who don’t qualify for government assistance. They are the working poor, the folks whose incomes don’t quite cover their monthly expenses.” For folks like these, Stone Soup has launched a weekly Sharing Center.

“It’s a place to share goods and volunteer time,” Arient explains. “Each week at the same time we are serving soup lunches, we are also making food available to anyone for the asking.” The food pantry is located in the basement of the church. It is stocked with donated food from the community as well as with food from the Feeding America Foodbank.

Seeing a need and putting it in operation are two very different things. Arient and his team had the idea and the space, but they needed some younger energy. Beth Austin, an instructor at Camelot School of Belvidere, located in Garden Prairie was looking for a place for her high school students to volunteer their services, while also learning some work skills. The Camelot School students and the Stone Soup were a perfect fit for each other!

Arient reports, “These kids are really a blessing!” They cleared out and cleaned the space where food would be stored, moved in shelving and stock the shelves every week. It’s a spacious area where people can come to get needed food. The kids come during their school day each Tuesday for a few hours to help people pack food and carry it to their cars, and to help with clean up. They also enjoy a soup lunch and a visit with everyone —a win-win for everyone.

Dozens of Marengo and Union residents volunteer their time to Stone Soup each week. They cook, serve and clean up, and enjoy a chance to visit with each other and with Marengoans who stop by. If you have already done so, you know how delicious the soup is and how pleasant the company. If you haven’t been there yet, Stone Soup will be at the First Presbyterian Church, 203 W. Washington St. every Tuesday from noon till 5 p.m. Stop by for lunch. If you need some groceries or know someone in need, remember the Sharing Center will be open at the same time.

And if you are looking for a really great way to give some volunteer service while enjoying some good company, call first Presbyterian Church at, (815) 568-7441, to volunteer. 

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