Sometimes it's more than just a meal

Tyler Clarke
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Betty Thompson dishes out cheese and hot dogs at the Salvation Army soup kitchen in downtown Prince Albert on Saturday. 

The Daily Herald met up with a handful of members from Lake Park Baptist Church as they set up Soup on Saturday at the Salvation Army soup kitchen on July 5.

“Would you like cheese?” Betty Thompson asked with her eyes squinted in a welcoming smile.

The small-framed senior lady’s beaming smile landed on a gruff-looking lumbering man of about 40, with sleeve tattoos covering both arms.

Although he didn’t return the smile with the same intensity, his demeanor lightened up for a moment as he responded with a courteous, “Yes, please.”

This is the kind of thing that Soup on Saturday is all about, organizer Patty Anderson said while volunteers prepared this week’s meal -- hot dogs, fried onions and macaroni and cheese.

By 10:30 a.m. -- a half-hour before opening -- people had already started lining up for a free meal outside of the Salvation Army soup kitchen in downtown Prince Albert.

For some people, this is their only meal of the day, Anderson said. Sometimes people show up twice -- first when they open at 11 a.m., and again shortly before their 1 p.m. closing time.

That’s OK, she’s concluded. They need it.

Reflecting on the group gathering outside and periodically peering into the windows, Anderson said that she’d never be able to fully relate to them.

Although she grew up in a household of 10 children, she always received the love and support she needed to succeed in life.

“Not everybody had the same start you had -- the same opportunities,” she said.

Although they come from different backgrounds, Anderson and other Soup on Saturday volunteers are keen on listening.

You’re not here to try and sort out their problems ... All we can do is encourage them in some way or another. Patty Anderson

And, if those receiving a free meal feel like it, they can listen, too.

Organized by the Open Door Church of the Nazarene, the weekly Soup on Saturday is hosted and paid for by a rotating group of local area churches, with an average of about 100 people showing up every week for a free meal.

This week’s volunteers were from Lake Park Baptist Church -- a large building on the side of Highway 3 between Muskoday First Nation and Birch Hills.

For Birch Hills resident Betty Thompson and her husband Norman, helping out with preparing and dishing out a Soup on Saturday meal is in keeping with their faith.

“We have something to give and it doesn’t take much of our time, really,” Betty said with a shrug.

“Many of them say ‘thank you very much.’ We don’t do it for thanks, but we can tell that it means something to them.”

It’s easy to get sucked into wanting to help set people’s lives on the right track, Anderson said -- an upsetting mind frame to be in since it’s easier said than done.

“You’re not here to try and sort out their problems,” she said. “All we can do is encourage them in some way or another.”

For at least one man on Saturday, Betty Thompson’s warm smile served as a subtle reminder that people care.

Organizations: Salvation Army, Open Door Church of the Nazarene

Geographic location: Prince Albert, Birch Hills

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