For the past two years, the outreach called Stone Soup has sponsored a free community meal in Storm Lake on the fourth Sunday of each month.
With an average of about 100 people taking part in the events, Stone Soup now has a new site - the Family Life Center at the Storm Lake United Methodist Church.
A good crowd took advantage of the meal at the UMC for the first time Sunday.
"The Elks Lodge has generously provided their lodge dining room for going on 24 months," said Terry Davenport, an organizer for Stone Soup.
Due to the permits held by the Elks, however, it is not possible for the outside group to use the kitchen facilities at the lodge. The Methodist Church will allow for on-site cooking, and some additional flexibility as the volunteers hope to add some evening events in the future.
Stone Soup refers to a timeless European folk tale set in a hungry village during lean times. A peddlar arrives with a tale of his magical stone that will produce a fine soup for the community, where everyone hoards what little they have to themselves. If only it had a little beef... a few vegetables. Soon the residents had pooled their items and indeed had soup for all, fit for a king.
The monthly meal was planned for people who were needy, but it has become an important social gathering as well. While the group would like to attract more diversity to their meals, they note that senior citizens have become the most faithful attendees. "This is not surprising because there is no meal at the Senior Center and no Meals on Wheels on Sundays," Davenport said. "It gives the seniors a nice outing to look forward to once a month. They always enjoy the social time with others."
Everyone is welcome to Stone Soup. There is no charge, and donations are never necessary. Local churches and organizations have provided plenty of volunteers.
In the future, Stone Soupers hope to add activities to some of the evenings such as an occasional movie, singing, board games or special musical entertainment, Davenport says.
"We will be open to other suggestions for an entertaining evening."
The volunteers also hope to have special Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for those who may be in need or alone during the holidays.
Davenport and her fellow volunteers are enjoying the new facilities, but note that they could not have made the program a success without the support of the the local lodge that has housed them from the beginning.
"I want to sincerely thank the Elks for the chance they gave us to get Stone Soup up and running and for the amenities they furnished throughout the past two years. It has been a blessing to us, to Storm Lake and, I hope, in some way, to the Lodge also," Davenport said. "It has been a wonderful alliance."