Time for Hope

Many thanks to Sam Elzinga, a brilliant and talented, responsible young man with a big heart, for allowing me to share this inspiring guest post. Sam's write-up, about his involvement with the Soup Angels program, comprises the concluding pages of Melissa's and my book, Plot to Plate: Grow, Cook, Create. We couldn't have imagined a better finish. The Soup Angels outreach is among numerous wonderful efforts undertaken by HOPE, a Longmont-based, year-round street outreach to homeless individuals in Boulder County. Last year, I met HOPE Director Stacy, and was touched by her candor, selflessness, caring and realism.

Recently, unspeakable tragedies seem to have become too much a part of everyday landscape. Around the world there is mourning for last week's shooting in Newtown. Having grown up in a pastoral, lovely, safe-feeling town in Connecticut, I've been keenly feeling the disbelief. Fortunately, there is a wealth of kindness, heroism, and compassion to turn to, quietly plugging away, out of the spotlight. With these, there is always hope.

Community Connection: A Soup Angel’s Story

By Sam Elzinga

My name is Sam and I am twelve years old. I like cooking, skiing, studying maps, and Scouting. I started working with Soup Angels when I was 7 years old. Soup Angels is a non-profit group that hands out soup or bagged meals to homeless people on the street. It is different than some other groups because there are grown-ups who go out and drive around until they find the people in need instead of the people having to find and get to a shelter or soup kitchen. For a long time I was known as the “littlest soup angel” because I was so young and they had never had a kid ask to help before.

I wanted to do soup angels because it hurt my heart to see homeless people on the streets begging for food or money when there are so many of us who can help. I am doing my part every month to help these people. I think once I explained to my family how I felt and what we could do, they were ready to support me. Our family has helped with meals every second Sunday for the last 6 years!

I have an older sister and a younger brother and they have always helped. When we first started we were too little to help make soup and pour it into the provided Styrofoam cups with lids, so I asked if our family could make bagged dinners.

It takes everyone doing their part to make things work, and we really like to work as a family team. To start, we wipe off all the counters in the kitchen and wash our hands. Then we get out a new loaf of bread, some butter and a package of deli meat and cheese to help start the sandwiches. We get out what else we need for our meals next: a tangerine or some other fruit that is loaded with vitamins and won’t get squished; a pack of whole wheat crackers; sometimes some seasonal veggies if we can; and a dessert or holiday treat. Then we start to decorate and color the lunch bags. We decorate the bags to help the homeless people feel happy and joyful so they don’t lose hope. (We have been told by the grown-ups who deliver the meals that many people save the bags, flatten them, and flip through them like a book when they are feeling sad). After we’ve cleaned up, my dad and I drive to the town and deliver the meals to the volunteers. They keep them in a big refrigerator until it is time to go. In the summer we also deliver bottled water. The meals go out by vans driven by volunteers to homeless people they see.

Since the Soup Angels program has started, many people have found help when they did not know where to turn. The grown-up volunteers can tell the people in need where to go for help. We still do Soup Angels all these years later because it has sort of become a habit and we don’t really want to give up a habit that helps other people. We have never missed a day in nearly six years! We rearranged once when we were on vacation, but we’ve always made it a point to be there for those in need. It’s a family “appointment” I hope we always keep.