Mountain West Bank in Ponderay recently held an event to raise funds for the Ponderay Soup Kitchen. Customers and employees donated cash and food items to provide assistance to this free service at Hoot Owl Café every Monday from 4-7 p.m.
From the moment they walk into the soup kitchen, guests are made to feel welcome and important and not expected to walk through a buffet line. Those who take advantage of this meal are seated and served by a staff of volunteers. They are treated to a variety of homemade soups, breads, and desserts. On occasion, there is even a volunteer who prepares macaroni and cheese, a favorite for a number of guests who rely on the soup kitchen for nutritious and delicious food.
This month, the soup kitchen is celebrating its fifth year. It was the idea of Savannah Mort, daughter of Hoot Owl Café owner Wendy Franck. In the beginning, there weren’t very many who came but according to Mort, it didn’t matter. What was important was the soup kitchen was there to not only provide a meal but to be a place for those in need of fellowship and sometimes, just someone to talk with.
According to Mort, the soup kitchen presently serves anywhere from 80 to 130 guests every Monday. One regular is an 83-year-old gentleman, and a number of families come with their children of all ages to have this opportunity to dine together.
“My husband and I wanted a way to give back and to address the needs of those who are homeless or not in a position to take care of themselves nutritionally. In the beginning, we weren’t sure if it was going to work or not, but we were persistent,” Mort said.
Mort’s children can regularly be seen helping out at the kitchen as well. When 10-year-old Peyten was asked why she helps and what it means to her, she quickly replied, “I get to talk with a lot of people and help people who really need it.”
A core group of about 15 volunteers prepare the soup in the kitchen, or some drop it off. Some come and stay to help serve, clean tables, and spend some time visiting with those who just want to have those moments to talk with someone who will listen.
Ponderay Mountain West Bank employees presented Mort with a check for $220 and grocery items for soup prep. They also held a raffle for a free crock pot filled with soup ingredients. Bank customer Mary Music was the winner of the crock pot and immediately donated all of the soup ingredients to the soup kitchen.
“We have amazing customers and I get to work with the best employees ever. Over the years, we have held a number of events in the branch to help nonprofits in our community. I am overwhelmed by the generosity and the ongoing support displayed when asked to participate. This is what adds enrichment to our jobs and our personal lives,” according to Judy Baird, branch manager.
For information or to find out how to help at the soup kitchen, contact Savannah Mort at 208-818-7347.