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Out in the cold? Churches offer soup
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Soup kitchens

Hosted by the United Methodist Women's Group

When: 6-8 p.m. Thursdays
Where: St. Paul United Methodist Church, 705 Summit St., Gainesville

Hosted by Redwine United Methodist Church

When: 2-4 p.m. first Saturdays
Where: 3285 Poplar Springs Road, Gainesville
Contact: 770-536-5164


Two local Methodist churches are offering hot soup to Gainesville's homeless in the cold winter months.

Redwine United Methodist Church, on Poplar Springs Road in Gainesville, will hold its first soup kitchen today.

"We're trying to get more done locally than we have in the past," said Marty Szabo, a member of Redwine United Methodist Church. "We've noticed that there is a lot of need right here."

Szabo said the church has primarily focused on out-of-state and foreign ministries in the past. But after speaking with other ministries in the area, the need to help locally became clear.

"When we talked to people at Under the Bridge Ministries, we realized that there are a lot of people in Hall County that are in need," Szabo said.

Soup will be available to anyone who wants it from 2-4 p.m. on the first Saturdays of the month. A church thrift store also will be open during those hours.

This will be the second year St. Paul United Methodist Church on Summit Street in Gainesville will have a weekly soup kitchen.

Elizabeth Westbrooks, a member of the United Methodist Women's Group at the church, said the idea to start the soup kitchen came to her last year in a time of particularly harsh winter weather.

"Last year I was so concerned because people were so cold," Westbrooks said.

She said she thought of all the people who were without homes, who were cold and hungry.

"This jumped in my heart a year ago and I passed it on to my Methodist women," Westbrooks said.

The women took the idea and ran with it, gathering coats and blankets, making pots of soup and baking cornbread.

Westbrooks said a lot of people came looking for blankets and coats.

Over the weeks, as many as 75 people gathered at the church for vegetable-beef soup and cornbread, until the weather improved in March.

"I didn't want to stop it until it got warm," Westbrooks said.

While dining in the fellowship hall at St. Paul church, people were able to come in out of the cold and to talk about their faith if they wanted to.

"Our goal was not to push a service on them," Westbrooks said.

Westbrooks instead invited people to attend the regular church service on Wednesday nights.

The group also hopes to partner with Under the Bridge Ministries so more people can be served.

One of the problems for Gainesville's homeless population is finding transportation. Westbrooks said that limitation didn't deter people from coming because there were enough people willing to lend a hand.

"Some people bring them in vans... and some people just walk in because we're real close," Westbrooks said.

People who live in the neighborhood near the church also came for the meals.

Szabo said they haven't worked out exactly how people will get to their church for meals but he said they have a church bus to use if the need arises.

Though Szabo doesn't know how many people to expect, he said they will continue to have one every month as long as there is a need.

"If it's needed just a year, if it's needed the rest of our life on earth, you can't put a start and stop on things like this," he said. "There are a lot of people who need help." 

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