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Soup Kitchen Trying to Provide clients with Spirit of Season on Christmas Eve in Midland

Clasping their hands together to pray Thursday before digging into their meal at the Midland Soup Kitchen Ministry, Rosa Bennett¡¯s grandkids looked over at her and waited for the signal it was OK to begin.

¡°It¡¯s really good here. They help a lot of people,¡± Bennett said, speaking of the soup kitchen, which expected to serve lunch to about 400 Midlanders on Christmas Eve. ¡°Thanks to God and thanks to the people that are helping.¡±

As her 8- and 10-year-old grandkids put their forks into the stuffing, other families, couples and single adults filed into the soup kitchen while Christmas tunes played in the background and Santa sat waiting to greet kids amidst the array of decorations added to the room.

¡°I¡¯m so thankful to God that the doors are still open,¡± said Mary Rendon, who started the ministry with her husband about 25 years ago.

Her daughter and son-in-law, Nancy and Jason Ivy, now run the ministry and the Rendons stop by on special occasions like Dec. 24.

On a typical day, Nancy Ivy said, they feed about 130 individuals, which is up this year from the roughly 80 regulars they saw in previous years. On days like Christmas Eve, the number they serve typically more than doubles.

In addition to the traditional holiday meal served by volunteers Thursday, clients at the ministry also were given gifts. Children were each provided a gift from Santa as well as a present from the Soup Kitchen. Men were given a hat and gloves and women a blanket, Nancy Ivy said.

Volunteers also were posted at the exit to give families a candy bag that contained an apple and an orange in addition to the sweets.

¡°They want to make sure the kids are taken care of,¡± said volunteer Chasity Brito, who handed out candy bags with her 10- and 7-year-old daughters.

Brito said she first came to the soup kitchen to fulfill necessary community service hours but has continued serving because the welcoming environment.

¡°They don¡¯t judge people,¡± she said. ¡°They have a place for everybody.¡±

Longtime volunteer Andrew Bianchi, who brought his wife and two children Thursday, said he also returns because he enjoys the atmosphere and working with others at the ministry.

¡°I¡¯ve always cared about the problem with people not having enough food,¡± he said, standing in the kitchen where he¡¯d be tasked with washing trays. ¡°I just felt this was one way I could get involved.¡±

New volunteers were also present Thursday, including Danielle Olivas, who brought her 10- and 14-year-old kids to help serve in hopes they would return home on Christmas Eve with a greater appreciation for their family¡¯s blessings.

¡°We just wanted to give something back,¡± she said.

Providing food, Nancy Ivy said, is only a small part of what they hope to do.

¡°The main goal is their spiritual feeding,¡± she said, adding they typically pray and give a short talk during lunch.

Before opening the doors to the myriad of citizens who started lining up outside around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Jason and Nancy Ivy also led the 45 or so volunteers present in prayer.

¡°If it weren¡¯t for our volunteers, we couldn¡¯t do this,¡± Nancy Ivy said.

The ministry runs on personal donations and receives no grants, she said. It also thrives on the various canned food drives Midlanders hold throughout the year.

Bianchi said most who come through the soup kitchen are appreciative, and many enjoying a meal Thursday were quick to say ¡®Thanks,¡¯ and to wish those serving a Merry Christmas, as well.

¡°I hope they remember when they were in need someone helped them and maybe they can do the same in the future,¡± Bianchi said.

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