You can ask for the recipe for The Gathering Place's homemade vegetable soup, but you'll likely get eight different answers.
That's because the soup is made by eight women, who each create their own batch and then combine it for one delicious concoction.
For 38 years, Janes United Methodist Church in Rising Sun has hosted the community once a month at The Gathering Place.
The Gathering Place, a monthly meal outreach, was started by Alice Hickey, Louise Flowers Jenkins, and Jean Lucas Zepp, when the church was at its former building at the corner of North and Walnut streets. Zepp said it actually began on Sundays with coffee and dessert. They later moved the outreach to Wednesdays and began opening it up to the entire community.
Now, each month, one of a group of six to eight women, plans the menu and serves as the cook. Others help with cooking and serving. The menu last week included chicken a la king over biscuits, the soup, fruit, and Texas sheet cake.
Kay Coale was working as a server at The Gathering Place last week. She's volunteered the second Wednesday of every month for four years. "We don't have take out because it's a time of fellowship," said Coale. "The church does it for the community." They serve between 35-80 people each month. People may pay what they wish or may eat free. The money then goes to help pay for the next meal. But the cooks often chip in from their own funds.
The Gathering Place is now an outreach of the woman's Bible study group, which meets on Mondays. Most of the women are senior citizens, ranging in age from 57-96. Chris Bradfield joined the group of kitchen helpers after member Marge Norment asked her. "She (Marge) said we need some young people. I'm 65,” laughed Bradfield.
The cooks serve and after they are finished sit together and eat as a group. Members said it's hard to resume work after they've had the relaxing time together following the day of hard work. At 96, Evelyn Kerns serves as the treasurer for the group. "They let me be the treasurer because they think I can count," said Kerns, as she served up soup.