There are people who won’t enjoy the holidays around a Christmas tree or by watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.
Some of them may spend it under a bridge just trying to keep warm.
But the Springfield Soup Kitchen is working to provide a refuge for those people through the first of the new year.
The kitchen, along with Greater Grace Temple and The Turner Foundation, are combining on a program called ‘Safe Place for the Holidays.’
All day on Christmas Eve, around 40 volunteers served breakfast, lunch and dinner to anyone who walked through the door. They also provided coats, hats, boots and blankets to those in need — plus toys for kids, direct from Santa Claus himself.
“(The kids) are invisible to a lot of people because they’re passing through town. They’re being raised by grandparents, they’re neglected by parents that are addicted to one thing or another,” said Springfield Soup Kitchen President Fred Stegner. “It’s exciting to see their face when they see Santa – and even get a menial gift, a coloring book. As long as they get something, they’re happy.”
For Jan Tomlin, the soup kitchen has always been a place to turn in tough times. When he can, he tries to give back to the place that gave him hope for a better tomorrow. He was there for lunch on Christmas Eve with his fiancé and his son.
“Sometimes tree work is slow, and I can’t afford certain things, so I come down here and they put this on and they give gifts to the kids in the community,” said Tomlin. “Thanks to Fred – he’s a godsend. He puts this on every holiday.”
Tomlin had another Christmas celebration planned with his family, but for others like Barb Ray, the soup kitchen Christmas is all she had. She considers the people there her family.
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“They care for people,” said Ray.
She described Christmas by saying it was loving and peaceful — two things she said she feels every time she walks in the soup kitchen’s doors.
This is the second year that Greater Grace Temple has worked with the soup kitchen during the holidays.
James Elder, with Greater Grace, said it’s really just all about treating people how he’d like to be treated.
“They don’t have to be out in the chaos, be at places where there’s drugs and alcohol and just give them a safe environment to come and enjoy fellowship with one another,” Elder said.
The Springfield Soup Kitchen will hold another ‘safe place’ on New Year’s Eve from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Three meals will be provided, and clothes/blankets will be distributed as supply lasts. The kitchen is located at 830 West Main Street.
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