OLDS — Starting Feb. 14, a soup kitchen, hosted by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, is opening every Wednesday, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.
The church is located at 5022 52nd Street in Olds.
Known as Clint’s Kitchen, the idea is the brainchild of local resident Clint Jackson, assisted by his good friend Olav Traa, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. They spoke to the Albertan about it.
The meal will consist of soup, sandwiches and possibly some dessert and vegetables.
“(There’ll be) no discrimination,” Jackson said.
Traa agreed, saying, “Everyone's welcome. And we invite them in their dignity."
Jackson said he got the idea for it last September or so after learning that a soup kitchen in Didsbury has been serving 100 to 150 people on Thursday nights.
“I thought ‘why doesn’t Olds have a place for the people that are less fortunate with the way the economy's going and everything and seniors and everything,’” Jackson said.
“I've always found there's a large support from volunteers around Olds. I said to myself, ‘I'm going to start up a soup kitchen.’”
Jackson began looking into the idea but it really blossomed when he mentioned it to Traa one day.
Traa was very excited about the concept.
He and his wife had volunteered at a soup kitchen in Camrose for more than 10 years, but he had never started one up himself.
Traa and began looking into what it would take to set one up and to see if any local restaurants and other businesses would be interested in helping out.
He was amazed by the response.
“The buy-in here in Olds was instantaneous,” Traa said.
“Like restauranteurs, when I speak to them, before I even finish my sentence, they say ‘we're in’ and it's really heartwarming to see that in the community.”
He said some restaurants are already officially on board. Others are looking to see how best they can help.
In the middle of last week, Jackson and Traa announced their plan on social media and they were overwhelmed with the response there too.
Dozens of people have indicated interest in helping out. Some are even organizing their own soup kitchen teams.
A Grade 11 teacher offered to have that class come down to help as well, fundraising or otherwise.
Traa could not say enough about how the St. Paul’s congregation supported the soup kitchen idea.
“They actually gave us a couple of rooms downstairs as storage dedicated just for this,” he said.
“And we're going to operate under their charitable status with the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency). They're going to do the accounting.
“We have a treasurer with a huge heart, a wonderful, wonderful treasurer."
Traa said tax receipts will be issued for anyone who donates more than $50.
“This has grown into a true grassroots effort,” Traa said. “When each group kind of steps up and does what they can, that's when really amazing things start to happen. And I truly believe that we're witnessing something like that right here, right now.
“It's not just St. Paul's. It's not just me. It's not just Clint. It's this whole community. Yes, you need a few people to be the fire starters, the rainmakers.
“But to see what's happening now in the town of Olds, we're seeing a really beautiful side to the people of Olds and surrounding areas.”
Traa said although the kitchen is being hosted at St. Paul’s, it’s aimed at the whole community.
“As a pastor, as part of my call here at St. Paul's is to minister also to the community. So, technically, my parish is not just our membership here at St. Paul's. It's, it's to serve the whole community,” he said.
Traa noted with a laugh that there’s a strict policy at these soup kitchen meals: no politics and no preaching.
“If they want to hear preaching, I do that on Sunday mornings,” he said with a laugh.
One of the steps organizers had to go through was to have Alberta Health Services inspect the kitchen and sign off on its suitability for the enterprise.
Traa and kitchen volunteers for the church were surprised how quickly they got the go-ahead and how little they had to do to gain approval.
“That is a testament to the ladies of St. Paul's. They have kept this kitchen in perfect condition. They have kept records in like, awesome order,” Traa said.
“When the inspector was here, we were more nervous than she was. We had underestimated ourselves, because the ladies, this is their pride and joy, this kitchen.”
Traa said while the soup kitchen is envisioned to feed the hungry, those who are doing well won’t be turned away, but a donation box will be set up where they can quietly contribute if they wish.