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Recipe for success: Stone Soup helps fill food pantry

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The annual Stone Soup fundraiser, to benefit the St. Paul's Community Food Pantry, will be held from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. today at the parish hall, 401 E. Fourth St.

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By Kim Grizzard
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

In the folktale “Stone Soup,” small, individual contributions, when brought together, prove to be a recipe for success.

That is the idea behind the Stone Soup fundraiser at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The annual event unites the efforts of the church with those of culinary and clay artisans to benefit the St. Paul's Community Food Pantry.

Today's Stone Soup will feature soups and desserts from nearly 20 restaurants, served in bowls created by dozens of potters. At this sixth annual event, the church hopes to raise as much as $35,000 through sponsors and sales to benefit the pantry, which feeds more than 350 people each week.

That goal is nearly four times the amount raised in in 2014, when about half a dozen volunteers first gathered at the church to make chicken and vegetable soup to sell.

“We were just small potatoes,” said Ann Whichard, who co-chairs the fundraiser with Miki Ragsdale and Suzanne Pecheles. “When we started, we were just back in the St. Paul's kitchen stirring up soup, hoping that people would come, and they did.”

Church volunteers were happy for any amount to help support the pantry, which had been launched in 2006 to provide food for 12 families in need. The mission grew quickly, but the pantry's budget did not always keep pace.

“Food scarcity is just everywhere in Greenville,” Whichard said. “Being a downtown church, we kind of see it.

“(The food pantry) was becoming a ministry that we were being known for around the community,” she said. “But we were just running it on a shoestring budget and always wondering where the next dime was coming from.”

Whichard began talking over the ministry's needs with a friend who helps to run Urban Ministries of Wake County, which had experienced success with fundraiser based on the legend of “Stone Soup.”

In the story, a hungry stranger places a stone in a pot to boil, prompting villagers to add their meager offerings. The collaborative effort yields a delicious pot of soup large enough to feed everyone.

“The correlation between the legend of Stone Soup and what we were doing at St. Paul's just really made sense to me,” Whichard said. “That's how we got started.”

What began with a small group of church members now draws more than five dozen volunteers, including some from other faiths.

Potters have pitched in, from experienced crafters to art students at ECU, Emerge Gallery and Greenville Recreation and Parks Department. This year's event will include a silent auction of pottery by professional artists Dwight Holland, Cheryl Williams and Cynthia Dunn.

By the third year, following the lead of Matt Scully at The Scullery, about half a dozen restaurants were added to the mix. This year, there will be three times as many, along with a food truck from Villa Verde that will handle take-out orders in the church parking lot.

“When you bring a restaurant, you bring enthusiasm from a whole other group of people,” Whichard said. “The restaurants are out there promoting this just like we are.”

New to this year's Stone Soup is baker Brent Henze, who is contributing more than two dozen loaves of homemade sourdough bread and a few hundred dinner rolls to the effort. Henze, an associate professor of English at ECU, has for about a decade provided bread for the Heat to Defeat ALS Chili Cook-Off.

“We met him through that,” Ragsdale said, “and he was glad to help us in our cause as well.”

Though Henze has been baking bread for about two decades, even milling the grain at home, bread for 500 people is a tall order. Still, he's glad to do his part in Stone Soup.

“I can't imagine running an event like this if you had to be responsible for the whole thing,” he said. “I'm only doing one thing; I'm just doing a lot of it. That's true of the people that are donating soups as well.

“I get to focus on the thing that I'm good at. Somebody who does the soup can focus on the thing that they're good at,” Henze said. “It's really quite a nice model of collaboration and service.”

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s, 401 Fourth St., will host its annual Stone Soup from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. today. Cost is $8 for soup, salad, bread, dessert and beverage. Free for children ages 5 and younger. Cost is $25 for the meal and handmade pottery bowl or mug. A choice of more than a dozen soups, provided by area restaurants, is available. Visit www.stonesoup-enc.org for more information.

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