Soup Kitchen works to address community’s needs

KINGSFORD — The First Presbyterian Church of Kingsford served its first Christmas Day community meal in December 1993.

A decade later, the church decided their next mission was to open its kitchen for a weekly meal ministry.

The First Presbyterian Church Soup Kitchen has since shared a free meal and fellowship for 21 years.

Over the years, it evolved from hosting a few guests to now cooking for more than 150.

They had averaged about 80 guests weekly in the fellowship hall before March 2020, when the kitchen had to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic by becoming drive-through only, co-coordinator Sandy Petroff said.

“Since the pandemic, we have seen huge growth — at the peak we were at over 250 meals,” said Patti Ebertsch, soup kitchen coordinator. “We are now feeding a lot of younger families.”

Ebertsch explained although four years past that period, the soup kitchen still sees substantial need in the community.

“Some people still aren’t working. Many just need extra to supplement or those who are bringing to their elderly or homebound neighbors,” church secretary Mary Jean Larson said.

With the demand comes higher costs, as well as a need for better equipment.

The roughly $16,000 the Dickinson County 100-Plus Women Who Care awarded to the group earlier this year helped make some of those purchases.

A larger refrigeration system, along with a new dishwasher, have already been installed.

“For our last Christmas dinner, we needed to use a trailer and purchase ice because the weather was so warm,” said Larson, adding they served 750 meals on Christmas Day, which was one of the highest number over the years.

“The dishwasher also desperately needed to be replaced,” Ebertsch said.

They are currently working on buying other necessary kitchen equipment on their wish list. Some of those items include Nesco roasters, pots, pans and utensils.

“We are so thankful that the 100-Plus Women chose us,” Ebertsch said. “We are extremely grateful for their financial assistance to keep the kitchen going forward.”

To date, the non-profit has awarded more than $715,000 to 34 local charities.

“The soup kitchen serves a real need in our community, now more than ever,” said Kris Leonard, a 100-Plus Women member.

Petroff noted they were among the first in 2013 to benefit from 100-Plus Women Who Care’s generosity.

Although they are known as the “soup kitchen,” the meal itself is not soup. Dinners vary monthly — pasties, ham and scalloped potatoes, casseroles, chili. All meals include vegetables, fruit and dessert.

Ebertsch said the menu for the evening revolves around several factors — what products are on sale, what is available in their freezer, what has been donated and how many volunteers.

“If it’s a labor-intensive meal, you have to make sure all your volunteers are there,” she added.

Cost averages range from $600 to $700 a week, which includes the packaging.

The coordinators review weekly grocery ads seeking the best deals.

“Everything has doubled since we started,” Ebertsch said

The soup kitchen is funded primarily by donations from local businesses, agencies, organizations and groups. They also receive monetary and gift card donations from the community and its church members.

The program has received grants through the Dickinson Area Community Foundation as well.

“It’s really is a community meal, because it’s not just our congregation that’s providing it,” Larson said. “It’s great to have the community’s support.”

In the beginning, the church’s mission was to promote fellowship within the community, but the pandemic changed that — they are now more focused on need.

“We are thrilled we are able to continue to serve our community in need,” Ebertsch said.

Participants continue to express gratitude for what the church provides to the community. “Some come with tears of thanks for the meals for their young families,” Petroff said. “Others are expecting to pay; they are amazed that the meal is free.”

Meals are served from 5 to 5:30 p.m. twice a month. The soup kitchen schedule is posted on the church door at 395 Hamilton Ave. in Kingsford. Upcoming dates are also distributed during meal pickup.

Attendees do not need to make a reservation — an attendant will ask for the number of meals needed as they pull up at the church.

Organizers had hoped to return to dine-in service again but are unable due to lack of volunteers, with the kitchen always in search of more help. It takes about 15 to 20 people to handle the cooking, cleaning and distribution of the meals.

“We currently have an amazing group of volunteers, many who are part of the older generation, along with high school students,” Petroff said.

Volunteers don’t have to be a member of First Presbyterian Church to take part in the community service program, Larson noted. Anyone interested can contact the church office at 906-774-4211.

The facility’s space is also utilized by many other groups and clubs on a regular basis.

“It’s truly a community kitchen,” Petroff said.

The Dickinson County 100-Plus Women Who Care will have its second meeting of 2024 on May 13 at Pine Grove Country Club in Iron Mountain.

Members are encouraged to nominate a worthy 501(c)(3) organization or charity to receive donations from the meeting. If four meetings have passed since a group was last selected, it is eligible to be nominated again.

For more information about this organization or for a form to join, email dc100women@gmail.com. Membership forms will be available at the door as well. All interested women are invited to participate.


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