East Side Soup Kitchen History
In 1979, Pastor Sam Griffin and his wife, Audrey, realized there was a need for a soup kitchen in their east-side Saginaw neighborhood. It was during one of our automobile industry downturns and consequently, high unemployment among other needs. Serving from the basement of their church, the East Side Soup Kitchen began in January of 1980 by feeding 15 people for lunch. It obviously served an immense need that is still growing. We are averaging over 300 lunchtime meals per day in the Kitchen Monday through Friday.
In 1994, another realization became evident to us. We were fortunate enough to have several after-school latch-key programs in the city. But from the time the children left school at 3:00 p.m. until the time they returned home between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m., the kids were really hungry. Consequently, our After School Meal Program was initiated.
We serve people from many walks of life: senior citizens on a fixed income, people with mental and physical disabilities that make it impossible for them to work, the working poor and homeless men, women and children. The people we serve come basically from the East Side of the City of Saginaw but are not limited to that population.
As one can imagine, a program this size takes a heavy toll on the facilities that we use for our food preparation and serving because they were not designed to handle this load. We started out in the basement of First Christian Church, moved to the basement of Sacred Heart Church, and then to the basement at Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church. The congregations were always very supportive of our mission, but we kept out-growing their facilities.
In the fall of 2002, in collaboration with Hidden Harvest, a food-rescue agency, we partnered to raise funds and build a new handicap accessible facility staying within the neighborhood where there is the greatest need. The community and foundations were very supportive and we moved into our current location in October of 2005 finally out of the basement!!
Raising funds to operate the East Side Soup Kitchen is always challenging and the need ever expanding. We rely on contributions from individuals, churches, businesses and organizations for our funding. The only government money we receive is a portion of the Saginaw County FEMA grant which is about 3% of our budget (and always subject to adjustment depending on FEMA's over-all national needs). We also write for grants from foundations and put on fundraisers.
Our Board of Directors consists of 18 members from throughout the community and meets 11 times per year. The Soup Kitchen employs 3 full-time and 4 part-time employees and depends on another 10 to 15 volunteers and community service workers per day to run the operation. The 3 full-time employees have a total of 69 years of service to this organization.
The Soup Kitchen is also home to a free weekly medical clinic for people with no insurance. This service is provided through Healthy Futures in conjunction with St. Mary's of Michigan. It is a wonderful service to our people who would not otherwise have access to medical treatment. The clinic is staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses.
Eye care is provided to people with no insurance once a month by the Saginaw Area Foundation for Eye Care. People are able to receive eye exams and glasses as needed.
We strongly believe in partnerships with other agencies, etc. to accomplish tasks presented to us. We try not to duplicate services but to provide what is needed to help people improve their lives. We also write for grants from foundations and put on fundraisers.
The Soup Kitchen strives to provide a nutritious meal for all who come to our doors and to the children at the After-School Centers.
We try to make it a pleasant place and a safe place for people to come. We are, in a sense,… a family.