Dixie Elks Lodge continues tradition of buying, preparing meals for soup kitchen

Members of the Dixie Elks Lodge help prepare a meal for people at the Community Soup Kitchen at Grace Episcopal Church in St. George, Utah, Dec. 14, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — For those passing through the soup kitchen at the Grace Episcopal Church in St. George, the meal in front of them may be the only one they receive for the day.

Members of the Dixie Elks Lodge help serve a meal to those in need at the Community Soup Kitchen at the Grace Episcopal Church in St. George, Utah, Dec. 14, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

Equipped with more than 10 volunteers, members from the Dixie Elks Lodge buy food, prepare a meal and serve it once a month to people who don’t necessarily have the means of getting food themselves.

Elks members have been volunteering at the Community Soup Kitchen of Grace Episcopal Church for five years. While most groups who volunteer at the soup kitchen use the food at the church to prepare meals, the Elks Lodge members purchase food on their own and prepare it in their kitchen before bringing it to the soup kitchen.

Bob Matteson, public relations chair for the Dixie Elks, said they put on an annual fundraiser to pay for the food. Members raised more than enough in 2018 to cover their budget for food for the entire year, he said.

“We had enough money left over that the soup kitchen had just had a catastrophic failure of their dishwasher,” Matteson told St. George News, “and we were able to purchase a dishwasher for them to replace that.”

Donna MacBean, member of Dixie Elks Lodge, prepares salad for people at the Community Soup Kitchen at the Grace Episcopal Church in St. George, Utah, Dec. 14, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

Dixie Elks members Donna MacBean and Randy Benson started the tradition of volunteering at the soup kitchen. MacBean learned the soup kitchen was looking for another group to help prepare meals, so she called Benson, who is the head cook for the Elks crew, and they both agreed to start volunteering there and providing meals.

The Dixie Elks spent approximately $8,500 on food and appliances and served nearly 2,000 meals this year, Benson said.

“I think the soup kitchen is a great deal,” Benson said. “That’s the reason I joined the Elks 30 years ago is just to volunteer.”

Although the Dixie Elks serve a meal once every month, the soup kitchen provides one meal during lunchtime Monday through Friday for those in need. Soup kitchen manager Sheila Broadhead said all the people who serve meals at the kitchen are volunteers who sign up a year in advance.

The soup kitchen serves around 140 people each week, Broadhead said, and people may eat as much as they would like as long as there’s food. People will often take a to-go box home, especially on Fridays, to last them through the weekend when the soup kitchen isn’t in service.

“Many of the people who come here tell me on a weekly basis how much they appreciate it because this is the only meal they get,” she said.

The soup kitchen gets the majority of its food items from the Utah Food Bank. Whatever the food bank is unable to provide, Broadhead said she will use funds from public donations to buy other ingredients. The soup kitchen is also allotted a yearly grant from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and uses that money to purchase meat and other items from the bishop’s storehouse.

“It’s a partnership with many places to make this happen.”

Dixie Elks Lodge members hand out food to people at the Community Soup Kitchen at the Grace Episcopal Church in St. George, Utah, Dec. 14, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

When you walk into the soup kitchen, volunteers are seen sharing a laugh or talking to people sitting at tables waiting for their meals. Broadhead said many volunteers will interact with and get to know the people who come to the soup kitchen.

“We try to make it seem very homey here,” she said. “I like to interact with the people, to see if there’s anything they would like me to help them with. We want to help them.”

While the soup kitchen has a lot of the same people coming to receive a meal each week, Broadhead said they see at least 12 new faces each day. Sometimes volunteers will only see specific people for a couple of weeks or only once.

“Maybe it’s just enough to help them get past that hump that they’re in, in their life.”

To learn more about the Community Soup Kitchen and volunteer opportunities, visit the Switchpoint Community Resource Center website.

Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Comment December 15, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    I used to work at a soup kitchen. I guess people liked my cooking because my soups would always sell out quick. Kitchen work is really thankless work and my supervisor was a total clown. By clown, I mean he was an … . What I’m getting at here is maybe one of these days I’ll go over there and help out and give the other volunteers some soup-making lessons. But I already do volunteer work, but if I ever find myself with the time…

    😉

    Ed. Ellipsis.

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