Springfield Soup Kitchen serves up warm meals, gifts to dozens for Christmas

Tosha Moore and children Landon and Rae’Lyn stood patiently outside the Springfield Soup Kitchen’s side door just after noon on Christmas day, snow falling around them and a wind making the mid-teen temperatures feel even colder.

Wearing masks and bundled against the elements, Landon and Rae’Lynn, ages 5 and 4, said “thank you” to Soup Kitchen volunteers AnnaMarie Day and Charlene Nunley, accepting new gloves, colorfully wrapped presents and a warm meal including turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and other items through a plexiglass divider.

“I think it’s a big race car,” Landon said.

Already a lifeline to many struggling in the community, the Soup Kitchen wasn’t short for volunteers as 12 manned the operation to prepare food and hand out gifts, hygiene items and others essentials including blankets and other items on Friday.

Whereas other years would find the West Main Street location serve a sit-down meal, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant only handing out meals in containers. Bruce Born, who assists running the Soup Kitchen, said they were prepared to feed up to 300 people, but only 86 total came through.

Instead of seeing it as missing time with family for the holiday, most volunteers said this was with family they aren’t related to. Mark Gray, Jr., who uses the Soup Kitchen’s services frequently, said it was mutual.

“This is a family here. These people don’t have to do this, but by the grace of God, they do,” said Gray.

The generosity led to hygiene packets with items including toothpaste, razors, soap and other essentials, gifts for all age groups and clothing items.

“We’ve had great success. A lot of people will donate – doctors’ offices, churches, individuals,” said Born. “We have some who donate monthly.”

An annual children’s Christmas party on Wednesday was also modified due to the pandemic, but with no less enthusiasm. Santa Claus roamed the area instead of staying in one place for the estimated 280 who stopped by, even waving at passing cars.

Day and Nunley, who help coordinate the party, said the gifts are aimed at specific age groups.

Nunley remembered the joy a small boy in a stroller expressed when he held out his hand to get a gift and also received new gloves while he had none on, and Day recalled a child grateful to receive a hat.

“We don’t always realize how blessed we are,” Nunley said.

Day said she has to stop from crying while handing things out at times. Nunley even got her boyfriend, Mickey Creamer, got involved on his visits from southern Ohio, helping collect coats and other items.

“There are people out there who struggle and nothing is too small to help out,” he said.

Volunteer Deanna Pearce said while the holiday season is a great time to share, need doesn’t end then. January and February are when things drop off and the pandemic could cause even more need for people to keep in mind to continue donating.

But knowing they will be there is what keeps Gray going.

“This is one big Soup Kitchen family,” he said.

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