The coronavirus may be stopping families and others from going out to eat, but it hasn’t slowed down a local soup kitchen from feeding those in need.
The St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen in Great Mills is continuing to monitor the spread of COVID-19 cases in the area, and has closed its doors for sit-down meals since March 16. Although it will continue to use only essential volunteers until it is deemed safe to fully reopen, they announced their transition to take-and-go meals until then.
Meals will be handed out, one per person, between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. People will be required to leave the property immediately upon receiving their food, and will not be allowed to congregate on the grounds for personal safety reasons.
Kristine Millen, director of the soup kitchen, told The Enterprise the original plan was for the drive-thru food pickup to take place from March 16 to 27, but the soup kitchen has decided to extend the timeline indefinitely.
“We’re in it for the duration” of the virus or at least “until it seems safe to [fully] open up again, even if it isn’t until July,” she said in an interview last Friday. “Because that’s what we do, we feed people”
As she was preparing hot food, Meghan Raub, a member of the board of directors and volunteer at the soup kitchen, said they have been receiving around 75 to 120 guests per day, which is “unheard of” compared to a normal day of around 50 to 70 people, and that number continues to increase. The soup kitchen has been alternating between hot meals and cold sandwiches, she said.
Millen said the people who come for meals are usually spread throughout the two and a half hours a day the kitchen operates and the visitors go through the line quickly.
“Recipients are extremely grateful,” Millen said. “And we are thrilled with the outpouring of support from the community,” with teachers and parents actively getting involved and donations being received.
The soup kitchen is filled with food and snacks thanks to community donations, but is always in need of bottled water, fruit cups, puddings, granola bars, chips, to-go containers with lids for soup, individual condiment packets, and individual desserts. Dropoff times for donations are between 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen has also been in contact with St. Mary’s County Public Schools to ensure that no child will go hungry. The school system is conducting a drive-up lunch service between March 17 and 27 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Lexington Park Elementary, Leonardtown Elementary, Greenview Knolls Elementary and Margaret Brent Middle School, for children up to 18 free of charge.
In addition, Millen mentioned the soup kitchen’s Family in Food Crisis program, which “helps kids with emergency situations,” since “so many people don’t have access to resources,” she said. The program ensures those in immediate need receive enough groceries until they can get to a food pantry.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, check out the St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen page on Facebook or call 301-863-5700.
“It’s been truly amazing and we are committed to seeing it through, however long that may be,” Millen said.