Soup ministry helps those in need

Tracy Arden of Highland Park Baptist Church shows some of the soups delivered for From Our Hearts to Your Home.

A soup ministry started at Highland Park Baptist Church in September 2020 continues to deliver heartwarming food and love to those in need.

Since the ministry’s establishment, the church has worked to help residents who remain shut in their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tracy Arden, soup ministry organizer, said some people, especially older adults, get depressed because their only social outlets are church and those who visit. Because of COVID, many were afraid to get out, Arden said.

Highland Park had a food pantry, but visits were down during the pandemic. Arden said the church decided to find ways to help those in need and take food to residents.

“I felt like I should be doing something,” she said.

From Our Hearts to Your Home soup ministry delivers food the first Saturday of each month to Spring Place Apartments in Lenoir City. The ministry serves others as needed, such as those who are sick, recently had surgery or can’t leave home for other reasons. Recipients do not have to be church members.

Volunteers provide crackers, dessert and soups such as chicken noodle, chili, bean and minestrone.

“We take it to them and they can thaw it or heat it up or they can freeze it if they’re not ready for it,” Arden said. “We feed them physically and spiritually. We just try to share God’s love. We try to remind them that God loves them.”

Food is provided by church members. Some donate by buying groceries for the soups and containers to store the meals.

In addition to six regular ministry volunteers, Arden said the Boys & Girls Club of Loudon County also lends a hand.

Special holiday meals have been provided, included one at Christmas comprised of ham and mashed potatoes and another July 4 that included hot dogs and potato chips.

Cynthia Campbell, who is a church member, recipient and soup maker, said some homebound people are able to make soup and help others.

“Even though they couldn’t get out, it gave them a purpose,” Campbell said. “I just thought, ‘How nice!’ This makes a person feel warm ... and cared for. ... It made me feel very warm. It made me feel loved. It made me feel part of a family.”

She said she thought there would be a lot of vegetable and chicken soups for the ministry, which is why she wanted to make something different and offer minestrone.

“Everyone that can brings it to the church,” Campbell said. “If you can’t get it there, you can bring it early now and put it in the freezer. That helps, having our own freezer.”

Friendships have developed through the ministry, Campbell said. Some recipients are thrilled to have soup and crackers.

“It’s these little things that people don’t realize some people don’t even have that,” she said.

Campbell especially loves seeing the Boys & Girls Club help.

Arden said she was encouraged to start the ministry by Helen Garrison, who oversees the church food pantry.

“It’s a great ministry,” Garrison said. “It would be wonderful if all the churches got involved in their own neighborhoods and spread God’s love and help those in need. ... My goal is to spread God’s love and do what I can for him and if there is anything we can do to open their eyes and maybe lead to Christ, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about the love of God.”