Stone Soup going strong in Farwell, Harrison

There is such a thing as a free lunch.

With two Community Kitchens, one in Harrison and the second in Farwell, The Stone Soup Project,  the Clare County Leadership Institute’s nine-month program, is doing well, Kathy Methner (of Middle Michigan Development) reported at the Farwell Village Council meeting last Monday.

In Farwell meals are served twice a week at the Senior Community Center, 101 West Michigan, and in Harrison at St. Anthanasius Church, 310 South Broad Street on two alternate weekdays.

Everyone is welcome, regardless of age or income,” said Jackie Warren Demijohn, who together with Kelly Jarstfer and Sheila Moore are in charge of the Farwell meals.

The Farwell Stone Soup Project Community Kitchen serves full meals ~ not just soup; although, often soup will accompany the meal.

Jarstfer said, “It is a great joy to have this here.” Moore added, “I’m really enjoying it and I love meeting the people who come.”

There has been an average at the Farwell site of 65 to 70 people each time, Moore said. Farwell serves a balanced meal every Tuesday and Thursday from  11:30 to 1 p.m.

Harrison serves a full meal every Wednesday and Friday and averages between 35 and 40 for each meal. That site is managed by Sandy Bristol.

According to their flyer, “The Stone Soup Project is a dream shared by a group of people who are passionate about helping others in these tough economic times.” It said each site can accommodate up to 100 people for a meal.

Harrison’s Community Kitchen opened January 28. Farwell opened theirs on May 1. “We will open up additional Community Kitchen sites in the county as funding permits,” their flyer promises.

Margie Clark and Sharon Williams are the founders of the Stone Soup Project. Clark and Williams, who now work together, starting working on the project in January of 2011.

In a story of how the project started, Clare credited it all to “John,” a homeless man she repeatedly saw around the area searching through refuse for returnable cans. Seeing him sparked her interest in helping others. She said after volunteering on mission trips to Detroit and at a soup kitchen in another county, one frequented by John, she and Williams both realized there wasn’t a soup kitchen for people in need in Clare County. Clark told Williams her idea and the two women started working on finding a place and raising funds to start a community kitchen.

“The idea grew into much more than just a hot meal,” Clark wrote. She said they planned for a place where fellowship and dignity were top priorities; they planned for education and job skills.

When the first site was finally found and the Stone Soup Project opened the Community Kitchen doors in Harrison last January, a chair was dedicated to John. “In actuality without John, The Stone Soup Project would never have been thought of,” Clark wrote. “He is the person who deserves the credit for feeding the hungry in the third poorest county in the state…It’s perfectly ironic that a homeless man, alongside the road, searching for cans, sparked this project and caused so many people…from every walk of life and from every profession, to come together to feed the hungry.”

“We are really thrilled. We never imagined it would turn out so great,” said Williams. She said their future goals include opening a permanent site in Harrison and possibly developing a mobile kitchen.

The meals provided at the two community kitchens, under the umbrella of The Stone Soup Project, are nutritiously balanced and are free to everyone who comes although donations of food or supplies are always welcome. In addition, if someone would like to come and transportation is an issue, call either Sharon, at 989.304.1359 or, Margie, at 989.944.1278.

Volunteers are welcomed too. “We always welcome dedicated individuals to help cook, clean and serve our guests.”

The Clare Community kitchens operate solely through donations. Farwell Council Member Vicky Gunden said Monday that $1,200 has been raised through donations so far to help fund the project.

Contributions can be sent to 312 E. Second Street, Clare, MI 48617. To donate food or supplies, email to thestonesoupproject@hotmail.com or call Margie Clark at 989-944-1278 for more information.

The Stone Soup Project holds board meetings monthly on the 3rd Thursday of each month except December. The meetings are held in the Pere Marquette District Library at 185 E. Fourth Street in Clare in meeting room B on the lower level.