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Stir it up

Souped up fundraiser benefits pantry
Jackson and Eliana Williams listen as North Liberty Pantry board member Mandy Moellering tells the folktale Stone Soup, during the pantry’s Oct. 26 fundraiser in North Liberty. (photo by Lori Lindner)

By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– The North Liberty Community Food Pantry is raising some green to feed its neighbors.
Volunteers held the pantry’s annual Stone Soup Supper fundraiser Sunday, Oct. 26, at South Slope’s Community Room, welcoming nearly 200 people to the event. For a single fee, participants are able to try all the various soups provided by local restaurants and individuals; this year’s donors included Red’s Alehouse, Barb Dixon and the North Liberty Optimists, Kava House, Matt Zacek, Rocky O’Brien’s Public House, El Cactus restaurant and Bluebird Café. Together with a silent auction, the 2014 event raised nearly $5,000 to benefit the pantry.
The Stone Soup Supper is based on the folktale of three strangers who wander into a village, hungry and without supplies. Though the villagers are wary of strangers and not inclined to share their own sparse resources, they nonetheless contribute ingredients, one by one, to a pot of soup that is shared throughout the village.
It’s an appropriate illustration of the North Liberty pantry’s mission of neighbors coming together to help others.
“The mission of the pantry is to engage in the community in feeding and clothing our neighbors. The Stone Soup Supper helps to build awareness about the need in the community. It is a way for many people in the community to help their neighbors,” said Pantry Director Tina DuBois.
Event organizer Dawn Zacek said the supper has grown from having just three soups and about 70 attendees in its first year to now involving many more community and pantry volunteers– such as local Scout troops, church youth groups, and family members and friends of volunteers, as well as the addition of the silent auction. More local businesses have provided new sponsorships, and with live music to accompany diners, the event has expanded in lots of ways.
“We’ve really tried to grow it into a true community event where ‘Neighbors Help Neighbors,’” Zacek said. That is what continues to draw her to the annual event.
“I think my favorite part is truly seeing the growth and support from the community,” said Zacek. “When we first decided to hold this event we had a vision that it could become one of the pantry’s signature fundraising events and I think that has happened. Sharing a meal always brings people together. Sharing the meal and preparing it as a community is even better.”
When the entire community learns about the needs of its neighbors, it also helps to build relationships, which in turn creates a stronger community, DuBois added.
That strength has been shown yet again as part of the pantry’s next endeavor– installing a teaching garden that will produce fruits, vegetables and herbs for more than 500 families. The 9,600 square-foot community garden will also be used to conduct educational programs for pantry users, to teach them how to plant and harvest their own healthy food.
In September, the pantry was awarded a $38,500 challenge grant from the Wellmark Foundation– the challenge being that the pantry must raise an equal amount of matching funds by Dec. 15.
The “Gardening for Health” project is well on its way to meeting its mark. The North Liberty Blues & BBQ Committee donated $5,000 of its proceeds to the project, and the North Liberty City Council voted last week to give $4,000.
This Sunday, Nov. 23, volunteers will host another fundraiser for the Gardening for Health project from 2 until 4 p.m. at the North Liberty First United Methodist Church, 89 Jones Blvd. in North Liberty. The pantry is adjacent to the church, where it got its start in a spare closet in 1985.
Sunday’s fundraiser will be organized similarly to a farmer’s market, with a bake sale, craft sale, pie tasting contest, cake walk, silent auction, pumpkin toss and other holiday-themed activities for the family.
On Nov. 9, volunteers had another opportunity to come together to work on the garden installation, breaking the ground and amending the soil with trucks full of compost in preparation for the garden’s spring planting.
City councilor Coleen Chipman commended DuBois and the pantry volunteers for the effort.
“It’s a wonderful way to get people learning how to grow their own food,” said Chipman. “It will be healthy, and they’ll know where it comes from. Thank you very much for taking the lead on this.”
Former Mayor Gerry Kuhl concurred.
“I think it’s great we serve our community so well, but what I envision is that it will expand into our own yards, so people will in fact get back into what our parents and grandparents did; canning and preserving their own food,” Kuhl said.
To donate to the garden project, email a check to 89 Jones Blvd., or visit northlibertycommunitypantry.org/special-focus/garden.
Contact DuBois at 319-626-2711 or by email at nlpantry.org for more information about sponsorship or details about the garden.