- Associated Press - Monday, August 14, 2017

FOND DU LAC, Wis. (AP) - “Stone Soup” is on the menu every Saturday in Fond du Lac, and it is being served up in a far corner of the parking lot at the city’s public library.

According to the old Stone Soup folk tale, hungry strangers convince townsfolk to each share a small amount of their food in order to make a meal that everyone enjoys, USA Today Network-Wisconsin reported .

From noon to 2 p.m. anyone can stop by for an afternoon meal and a helping of friendship. Sometimes it’s hot dogs or pizza on the menu. Other weekends it’s a dish made fresh from ingredients donated to the cause.

Food is laid out on tables under the shade of large umbrellas. Folding chairs are scattered about, beckoning visitors to sit down, chat and take some time to get to know each other.

Brian Hastings, one of the organizers and pastor at Memorial Baptist Church in Fond du Lac, firmly believes that a community builds its strength by building relationships.

The Stone Soup project is meant to feed the city’s hungry and gather the homeless together to help them find resources and make local connections, Hastings said.

The best thing about the meal is that people aren’t stopping by for just a handout. Instead, the pastor emphasized, they come to enjoy other people with a willingness to pitch in and donate their own time to the cause.

“Back in February a homeless man who used to be a chef used his Food Share allotment to cook up five gallons of soup,” Hastings said. “His generous offering fed people for weeks.”

Fond du Lac’s local version opened mid-January, on a below-zero Saturday, said Tony Penton, another organizer. The idea came from a similar program members of Memorial Baptist heard about that was being offered in the inner city of Milwaukee.

“We just bundled ourselves up that first day and came out with sandwiches,” Penton said. “And we purposely set up in a central location so it would be more accessible to folks.”

Fond du Lac’s Public Library at 32 Sheboygan St. is in the heart of the downtown district, and in the vicinity of some of the city’s lower-income neighborhoods.

According to U.S. Census data, the rate of poverty and homelessness in Fond du Lac County is around 9.4 percent, out of an estimated population of 102,144.

Susan Klemetson and her four children arrived in Fond du Lac from northern Wisconsin in 2010. She said they were homeless, fleeing from a Lincoln County rental that was condemned because of black mold.

“I suffered from a form of T-cell cancer, but have since been healed,” Klemetson said. She talked about her Christian faith that has been strengthened through her relationship with members of Memorial Baptist.

“I come here to help serve food, to be a blessing to the homeless, because I was also once homeless,” she said.

Hastings said often, when people make connections on a very basic level, it sparks hope.

“Just knowing that someone cared about their week is an is willing to listen…We all have this human need to be known and recognized,” he said.

Ross Soerens of Fond du Lac served up plump hot dogs warmed in a large Nesco roaster.

“We get a lot of contributions and it’s been fun to serve something different most weeks, meet new people and make new friends,” Soerens said. Some of the donations are acquired through a Milwaukee area food pantry.

Stone Soup plans to be set up, no matter rain, snow or sunshine, every Saturday, throughout the year.

“Sometimes it can be really busy, and sometimes it’s really slow, but we don’t mind,” Hastings said. “We don’t care if someone is homeless or doing great. Whoever is interesting in stopping by is welcomed.”


Information from: The Reporter Media, https://www.fdlreporter.com

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