Soup kitchen in need of volunteers during holiday break


Volunteers serve the midday meal to patrons on December 5 at the Isabella Community Soup Kitchen.

Isabella Community Soup Kitchen has many volunteers during the semester, but when Central Michigan University students leave for winter break there is a struggle to retain much needed volunteer help during busy winter months.   

“We definitely have a lot of student help during the semester, but during winter break, spring break and summer break, our volunteer numbers really drop because of how many students we (need) on a daily basis,” said Kim Friedrich, executive director. 

The soup kitchen serves about 100 people a day for breakfast and lunch. Friedrich said new faces come during the winter because the rotating shelter, also called the Isabella County Restoration House, offers rides for their patrons to the 8 a.m. breakfast. Friedrich said they would appreciate students staying in Mount Pleasant to volunteer while the rest of the student body is gone. 

Battle Creek sophomore Taylor Stout has volunteered more than 80 hours at the soup kitchen this semester. She needed 50 volunteer hours to get into the social work program and another 50 hours to enroll in a certain class. 

She said it is a great place to serve, because she meets new people while learning new things. 

“I love it here,” Stout said. “It’s hot in the kitchen (and) the first couple of hours are kind of routine, but I’ve been able to learn different things to cook and I’ve learned a lot about myself.”

The soup kitchen always needs non-perishable food items and monetary donations, which are especially welcomed during the holidays, Friedrich said. 

Pat Spence, a Mount Pleasant resident who often utilizes the soup kitchen, has volunteered there for 17 years. She said one reason people go regularly for breakfast and lunch is because they feel a sense of community.

“It’s more like a family getting together,” she said. 

The soup kitchen, located at 621 S. Adams St, has no rules regarding those allowed to be served. Anyone is welcome. Friedrich and Spence said they see CMU students join them every once in a while.

“We serve a really good meal,” Friedrich said. “Last Friday, for example, we had goulash, garlic bread, mixed vegetables and vegetable soup.” 

There is a common misconception that soup kitchens only serve soup, Friedrich explained. 

The circumstance and frequency of patrons at the soup kitchen varies. Friedrich said some people eat at the soup kitchen because they live below the poverty level, and a few free meals help lighten the grocery load. Some soup kitchen guests are homeless. 

“There are people who live in their homes but can’t afford to have groceries for breakfast and lunch,” she said. “Some people work and come on their lunch break, while others have barriers to employment for whatever reason. For elderly people, there is also a community within our group.”

Many stay in the soup kitchen to hang out and wait for lunch at 11:30 a.m.

Extra bread and produce are always up for grabs. Spence said she takes some food to friends and neighbors with kids.

Anyone interested in volunteering at the Isabella Community Soup Kitchen can either call 989-772-7392 for more information, or stop in during office hours Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. No appointment is necessary.