In the Bible, Jesus feeds a crowd of 5,000 by multiplying the offerings of a few loaves and fishes. For 18 years, Victory Temple Soup Kitchen has fed tens of thousands, but it satisfies more than physical needs. Many have discovered the meaning of God's grace through the compassion of a dedicated pastor and his staff. The staff, too, have overcome monumental odds. But in the past year, a gloomy economy and the loss of hundreds of local jobs have stretched the kitchen's resources thin. More than ever, the kitchen relies on the community's generosity to continue its mission.
After shaking the soapy hand of a line worker wiping the front counter, the Rev. Lonnie Walters steps into the back room and weaves his way through dozens of shelves stocked with industrial-sized tubs of fruits, vegetables, gravy.
Both the walk-in freezer and cooler are crammed to capacity, but "Pastor Rick," as he's better known, realizes most of it will be gone by the end of the week. The number of people who flock to the soup kitchen has more than doubled in the stagnant economy while donations have flatlined. Though there are no bailouts for the nonprofit operation, no government agencies to come to their rescue and no regular shipments to rely on, the 57-year-old pastor doesn't spend time worrying about where they'll get their next batch of food.
"We trust God to supply us," he says, waving to the volunteers who bake chocolate chip cookies and plop biscuit batter onto trays. He pauses to greet each one and ask how they're doing.
How to help:
Donate food or money to Victory Temple Soup Kitchen, 1613 Hayes Ave., Sandusky, OH 44870, or call 419-627-8732. Donations are tax-deductible.