The Stockpot serves free hot meals to 65-100 guests every weekday. Fighting hunger is a big job, but Palestine's only soup kitchen has been doing it since 1986 – with a lot of help from a corps of 30 volunteers.
Volunteer director Brenda Jorgensen told the Herald-Press that volunteers share a commitment to helping others.
One regular group of volunteers on Monday comes from Crockett Road Church of Christ. Cooks arrive at 7:30 a.m., while others come in two hours later and stay to clean up the kitchen after lunch. Servers start making plates and open the kitchen at 11:30 a.m.—usually to a line of hungry guests.
Sue Grubbs, 92, has volunteered at The Stockpot for 15 years. During that time, she has received hundreds of hugs from the people she serves when they see her around town.
“It makes you feel good when you feed them,” she said. “You can tell the ones who are hungry, and it could happen to any of us.”
John Mottern, who arrives at 7:30 a.m. to cook on Mondays, has helped out at The Stockpot for two years. He enjoys helping people in need. “When they come in, they don’t have any place to go,” Mottern said.
Lois and Robert Duzan, a married couple who also help every Monday, said serving others is the best job of all. “Most of us are retired,” Lois Duzan said. “It gives us an opportunity to serve and help those who need help.”
Rodney Covington volunteers every Monday with the church group, but he also helps other days. Retired from the Navy, Covington said he volunteers because he enjoys helping at The Stockpot.
“This is a great place to be,” Covington said “We don’t turn down anybody.”
The menu varies, depending on what food comes in.
On Friday, guests ate bowls of stew with ground beef and potatoes, iced tea or water, and their choice of dessert—chocolate cake, cherry cobbler, or donuts.
Monday’s hot lunch of spaghetti, corn, and canned peaches was accompanied by homemade chocolate cake and bread pudding.
Jorgensen said food donations are plentiful in the spring and summer. Now The Stockpot needs donations of canned food items.
The Stockpot serves, on average, 75-100 plates a day, but more toward the end of the month, when assistance from government checks tends to run out.
None of the lunch guests interviewed by the Herald-Press on Friday talked about hunger, but they did explain what draws them to The Stockpot.
Donna Fletcher, who eats at The Stockpot several times a month, said she enjoys the kitchen’s friendly vibe.
“I like to come here because the people who come and serve the food are very friendly,” Fletcher said. “Sometimes teenagers from the high school come, and I think that’s wonderful.”
For information on donating canned food to The Stockpot, call 903-723-2891. Those interested in volunteering may leave a message for Jorgensen at 903-922-0533.