December 1, 2011
They were already lined up and waiting at the door when I drove into the parking lot. It was a mixed group waiting patiently outside the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa. Elderly men and women were interspersed between twenty-somethings. A bearded man with unkempt hair stuffed under his hat stood next to a clean-shaven man in a tie who was reading a newspaper. A few kids huddled next to their mothers. It was a sunny California day, but there was a chill in the air.
At 1:00pm, the doors opened and the hungry filed in. They sat quietly at long tables, waiting for their turn to eat. In keeping with tradition, the elderly ladies were allowed to be first in line. They all moved through the service line, saying thanks to each volunteer for filling their plate. Then they sat, in the company of others, and enjoyed the comfort of a warm meal. For a few minutes in their difficult day, they were allowed to rest.
Someone Cares Soup Kitchen has been serving the homeless community since founding philanthropist Merle Hatleberg made her first pot of soup to share in 1986. Twenty five years later, on any day of the week, over 400 people are served a hot, well-balanced meal in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. For many of the homeless in the Costa Mesa area, this is their lifeline; their daily connection with kindness that sustains them almost as much as the food they receive.
It may seem like an established neighborhood institution like Someone Cares Soup Kitchen would have plenty of benefactors. It’s true, local business like Trader Joes market donate much of the food that is consumed there. But tough economic times have affected not only the visitors who come to the soup kitchen, but the funding sources that keep the doors open.
“Funding is harder and harder to come by,” says Corey Donaldson who heads up fundraising for the soup kitchen. “We try and stretch the dollars as best we can, but these days we have a challenging time paying the bills like everyone else.”
Donaldson and his “dream team” of volunteers are beginning their 4th annual Holiday Campaign to raise money for the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen. The holiday campaign aims to raise more than $100,000 to feed Orange County’s hungry. In addition to financial donations, Someone Cares Soup Kitchen is also seeking contributions such as socks, warm coats and toys. Every year the Soup Kitchen assembles 450 backpacks for adults and seniors that find themselves upon difficult times during holiday season. Donations from the holiday campaign has allowed Someone Cares Soup Kitchen to fill hundreds of backpacks, host the annual holiday dinner and give away thousands of new, unwrapped toys as well as support the Soup Kitchen’s ongoing programs, including its tutoring center for at-risk kids.
If you’d like to find out how you can help, visit www.OCSoupKitchen.org for more information.
Someone Cares Soup Kitchen
720 W. 19th Street, Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Images courtesy of Suzanne Broughton