PORT TOWNSEND — St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Port Townsend celebrated seven years of bringing community members together for conversation over hot soup during the church’s weekly soup lunch.
The church at 1020 Jefferson St., opens its doors to everyone to eat a free bowl of soup, complete with bread and dessert, every Wednesday afternoon from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
On this particular Wednesday the church served two soup options, vegetable and beans and rice with ham, and for dessert volunteers offered ice cream sundaes.
“We try to have a meat and a veggie or vegan options and really cater to all tastes,” said Elizabeth Bindschadler, one of the coordinators of the Wednesday lunches.
This Wednesday was particularly busy, with more than 100 people and 130 bowls of soup served over the course of a few hours. The church ran out of ice cream near the end of the lunch, but a volunteer had baked cookies as a back-up.
Volunteers often bring desserts and bread to go along with the soup and local musicians and entertainers will occasionally stop by to perform for those who attend the weekly lunches, according to Rev. Dianne Andrews, the rector for St. Paul’s.
While this Wednesday was extra busy, mostly due to children and their families staying for lunch after some of the church’s summer activities, the meals often are bustling and have grown since they started seven years ago.
“We average roughly 75 people and probably 120 bowls of soup,” Andrews said. “The first one was just a handful of people.”
About 25 volunteers help cook and serve soup every Wednesday. That number swells to over 50 for the church’s annual Thanksgiving meal, served on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
“We have a lot of regulars who have been coming over the years,” said Helen Cleveland, a volunteer who has helped serve soup since 2010.
Cleveland said high school students often come in for lunch during the winter and a number of the assisted living facilities will bring people for lunch throughout the year.
“All are welcome and it’s supposed to be a social time,” said Will Kelb, who served soup Wednesday.
“It started just as an idea of people coming together to eat at a table with a tablecloth and talking over a warm bowl of soup,” Andrews said. “It builds community.”
The lunch draws church members, local individuals and families, tourists and some of Port Townsend’s homeless population.
“It’s a place where people from the congregation and people from the community from every walk of life can come together and socialize,” Bindschadler said. “There’s not many opportunities like that.”
The lunch is always free and, according to Andrews, the meal isn’t a time for the church to proselytize.
“It’s just a time for people to come together,” Andrews said.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at email@example.com.