By Kate Marlowe
For The CatholicMessenger
CLINTON — Each year members of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish Pax Christi and Sisters of St. Francis organize Peace Soup suppers to raise money for charity and discuss topics of justice, love and humility. This year, organizers chose to donate the $1,130 in freewill offerings from its five Lenten soup suppers to Information, Referral and Assistance in downtown Clinton. The nonprofit strives to help individuals afford basic needs including rent, utilities, food and medicine. The agency also provides monetary assistance for needs such as birth certificate retrieval, which is necessary to receive food stamps; education costs, which can be hurdles to seeking employment; and background checks, said Regan Michaelsen, the agency’s executive director.
Prince of Peace Pax Christi member Gabriela Egging said Peace Soup organizers originally set a donation goal of $1,000, and were pleased when attendees surpassed that mark. “Our attendees were very generous.”
Michaelsen said Information, Referral and Assistance will use the donations to target hunger in Clinton through its support of two local food bank sites: Free in Jesus Outreach Ministries and the Benevolent Society. “We just did over 300 Easter food baskets through the Benevolent Society. A dollar stretches farther at the food banks than food contributions, so we are always happy to see monetary contributions.”
Hunger, mercy, hopefulness, rehabilitation and the environment were the discussion topics at this year’s soup suppers. Glenn Leach, a volunteer for the diocesan Social Action and Immigration Office, discussed the growing problem of hunger. “There is a constant moral imperative in the Bible to feed the hungry,” he said at the March 24 event. He quoted government statistics to explain the prevalence of hunger. “Forty-nine million Americans who are unable to eat regularly … Free and reduced rate meals at the schools in Clinton are at an average of 56 percent, compared to 30 percent in Bettendorf and 53 percent in Davenport.”
Discussing food pantries, he explained there is no stereotypical customer. “Sixty-nine percent of their customers are white. Most are not homeless; in fact, 96 percent live in either a house or an apartment.” He noted, too, that 77 percent of the people at a food bank have graduated from high school or have a GED. For 65 percent, incomes were at or below the poverty level.
“We learn so much from our speakers and from each other at the Peace Soup suppers that helping (Information, Referral and Assistance) is just an added bonus,” Egging said.
Michaelsen said, “We are so grateful for the support.”