By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– “Stone Soup” is a tale meant to teach the value of cooperation amidst scarcity; hungry travelers come to a village and, starting with nothing but a rock and a pot of boiling water, gradually gain the trust and cooperation of the townsfolk, who each share small bits of food that collectively become a savory stew, enough to feed the entire village.
The North Liberty pantry’s Stone Soup Supper has a corresponding message; if each of us shares a small portion of what we have, collectively, we can make a difference in the lives of those who might otherwise go without.
There was no scarcity of generosity at this year’s Stone Soup Supper, the third annual fundraiser for the North Liberty Community Food and Clothing Pantry held Sunday, Oct. 30, at South Slope’s community room. This year’s attendance was up significantly– around 140 people, up from about 85 in year one and 106 last year.
“We had to bring out three extra tables,” said Executive Director of the Pantry, Tina DuBois. “That says a lot. It means people stayed longer, and enjoyed each other’s company.”
They also enjoyed the soups and salad provided by Blackstone Restaurant and Chili’s of Iowa City, and North Liberty’s own Red’s Alehouse and Charlotte’s. Panera Bakery provided the bread, Corridor Coffee supplied coffee and pantry volunteers baked up sumptuous desserts. There was plenty for everyone.
Also plentiful were the silent auction items. Last year, there were just 35 items to bid on, while this year 60 donated items graced the tables and helped bring in funds for the pantry.
DuBois is feeling quite satisfied with the event’s growing success.
“I did see a lot of new people that I didn’t recognize this year. I think the longer we are here, the more people become aware of the pantry and its mission,” she said.
It’s probably normal, she added, to be unaware of the pantry’s existence unless one wishes to donate or needs to use it. However, she and pantry volunteers have made concerted efforts to do more outreach into the community, to let others know of the pantry’s services in providing an average of 12,000 pounds of food about six van loads– to more than 500 visitors every month.
“We have been talking more to other churches, and we even talk to kids’ groups,” DuBois said. “With kids, it’s a little easier to demonstrate using food. I put breakfast, lunch and dinner items on the table, and tell them this is what most of us have to eat for the day. Then I take away the breakfast and dinner, and ask, “what if this is all you had to eat for a whole day?’ They say they’d be hungry or feel sick to their stomachs. You can see on their faces; they get it.”
The message reaches fairly far and wide, too. DuBois said she frequently fields questions from other organizations who want to start a pantry in their own communities. Solon and Hills, for example, have recently inquired, and DuBois eventually received an email from someone in Ohio who liked the pantry’s website.
“We try to put out there what we do, so if someone wants to recreate it, they don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” she said. “I figure if we do something good, maybe if we share it, someone else will want to do something good too.”
DuBois sees potential pantry start-ups in nearby communities as a good thing for everyone.
“The goal would be for everyone to be able to be served closer to their homes. To meet the needs, best practices follow a 10/10 rule; in the urban areas, you hope to have services within 10 blocks of home. In rural areas, within 10 miles.”
When people can be served in their own communities, she added, it helps patrons, volunteers and donors build better relationships with one another. It also inspires the community to take more ownership of a facility and service like the pantry.
North Liberty has a great start in building relationships within the community. Helping to bus tables, serve food, carry trays and clean up were members of Girl Scout Troop 1322 accompanied by a single Boy Scout– A.J. Parker, one Girl Scout’s younger brother who was happy to come along and help.
Girl Scout Natalie Parker said she always enjoys helping with charitable fund raisers such as Special Olympics or the Pantry events.
“It helps people who need food,” she said. “It’s fun to help, and it feels good.”
Reese Hancock, also of Girl Scout Troop 1322, also understood the purpose of the Stone Soup supper.
“It’s good for people to sit down and talk to each other,” said Hancock. “The food is delicious…and everyone loves food.
And fellow Girl Scout Colleen Bloeser provided the moral to the whole story:
“This is an important event, because there is a range of people in our community, and there are some that can’t afford to get food on their own,” said Bloeser, “and nobody deserves to be hungry.”
Who wouldn’t raise a spoon to that?