As a growing tradition in Storm Lake, Stone Soup is cooking up a special community meal to celebrate Christmas Eve.
The free meal, held at the end of each month when dollars may grow short for many, is always open to all. For its first holiday event, the pots of stew give way to a festive feast of ham, cheesy potatoes, vegetables, rolls and homemade pies. This meal isn't just for those who are needy but anyone can come and enjoy a good conversation and pleasant meal. "It's food for the soul as well as the stomach," organizers like to say.
Starting with a modest handful of people at the first events last summer, Stone Soup has grown to a turnout of 120 in November.
Volunteer Terry Davenport is excited about the holiday event.
"This was the first dinner we started to plan at our first committee meeting," Davenport said. "We felt this would be very important."
The level of community support for Storm Soup has surprised even its volunteers.
Dollar General currently has a bin that customers are able to donate items that will be handed out at the meal. A list of possible items are on the side of the bin, Davenport said.
"My girlfriends and I will be wrapping the presents up and are looking forward to it. We will do a final collection at noon on December 24."
Davenport also hinted that the big man in red, Santa Claus, might make an appearance before he travels across the world.
The women at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center clinic donate dollars to be able to wear jeans on certain days. The group elected to donate $100 for Stone Soup.
"I am not sure who nominated Stone Soup but I'm grateful for the support," Davenport said about donation from her fellow co-workers.
The different church groups around the community have been rotating the volunteer task of meal preparation but for the Christmas Eve meal members from all around the community are chipping in to help.
"These are people who were not involved with their church groups but contacted me wanting to help," Davenport explained.
Stone Soup is based on an ancient European legend of shaing in lean times. With steady growth in Storm Lake, a variety of ages and ethnic groups are attending and getting to know each other.
"It is great to see people attend," Davenport said. "We know that one meal won't cure everything. It won't cure all the dietary needs, it won't cure the needs of the soul either, but we hope that it will install hope."
Davenport personally celebrates Christmas a different time of the season each year, whenever family is able to gather. But looking forward to the Stone Soup meal has changed the Christmas season for volunteers.
"I usually don't have the spirit this time of year," Davenport said. "But working on this has really given me a sense of the Christmas Spirit."