Soupremes Have Cooked Shelter Dinners For Decades
Published: January 7, 2010
David Kempton stirs the sauce that will go into the main dish, turkey tetrazzini. (Photos by Michael Alexander)
ATLANTA—Tonight’s menu is turkey tetrazzini, cold green bean salad, along with dinner rolls as the kitchen at Our Lady of the Assumption School takes on the buzz of a restaurant.
Instead of going to tables of paying customers, this meal is headed to feed men who live on the streets.
The Soupremes prepare meals weekly on Mondays from November to March to be served at the 110-bed homeless shelter for men jointly run by the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and Central Presbyterian Church downtown.
On Dec. 7, Mary Kimpton, a veteran with the cooking ministry, and seven others bump into each other around the kitchen as they tear meat from the bones of three cooked turkeys, prep some 24 pounds of green beans and heat three large pots of water for five pounds of pasta.
“I love to cook. We do really good meals. We send meals better than I cook every night,” she says. “Because it is the holiday, we’re sending pudding.”
(Clockwise, from left) Soupremes’ members Sylvia Fallon, Penny Krautter, Helen Heil, Ken Krautter and Margaret Stevenson slice up turkey as they prepare the main dish for a meal to be served at the Central Presbyterian Church night shelter, Atlanta.
Laughter breaks out in the crowd, most of who are silver-haired with years spent in their own kitchens preparing food for now grown children. The rivalry between Marist and Pius is alive and well among these cooks, with grandkids and kids attending the Catholic high schools.
Sylvia Fallon, who is 76, has on a sweater decorated with an angel. She is lining the large foil pan with turkey before the cream sauce and spaghetti gets poured on top.
Fallon, who speaks with her native British accent, says she often thinks about how the small creature comforts she enjoys, like a warm cup of tea, aren’t available to the homeless. It motivates her to help where she can, Fallon says.
Helen Heil is jokingly called the matriarch of the group since, at 88, she is the oldest. She has been a parishioner at OLA since 1965.
“I can’t do a whole lot as far as the night shelter goes, but I can do this,” she says.
Jennifer Lee, a 27-year-old attorney, is new to the group.
“It is so much fun. I never imagined,” Lee says. She was baptized in the church last Easter and is getting involved with different ministries.
“I’ve always enjoyed doing service work through college and law school,” says Lee, a Marietta native, who has on a Michigan sweatshirt. “I love to cook anyway. I’m Italian.”
Volunteers with The Soupremes work in four teams. Each is responsible for one meal a month. A fifth team of teens cooks when necessary. A few of the teams have been together for years.
In the 20 years Penny and Ken Krautter have been involved with the group, their two sons graduated from elementary and high school to college and one has gotten married. The couple has juggled moving at least three times while staying committed to the cooking group.
The next to the last step in the preparation process calls for mixing the sauce, the spaghetti and the turkey together. In the final step the Soupremes shake some Parmesan cheese over the turkey tetrazzini and cover the dishes with aluminum foil.
“I know we are helping people,” says Penny Krautter, who has a scarf around her neck.
Seasonings, from oregano to light soy sauce, fill a shelf in the group’s closet turned pantry. There are recipes for the Soupremes’ greatest hits, from meatloaf and spaghetti and meatballs to beef stew. Desserts run from brownies to apple crisps and gingerbread. The group budgets about $150 to spend on every meal. The money comes from fundraising and other ministries. They prepare enough food to serve the hungry men, along with a little extra for leftovers.
After the cooks have done their part and they share a meal of what they have spent the last hour preparing, the food is left in the refrigerator to be picked up the next day by a team of drivers who deliver it to the night shelter.
Sue Briss, the shelter’s volunteer meal coordinator, says the work of the Soupremes is in a “different category” from the many other volunteers who make the shelter work.
“Every Tuesday night, without fail, we have a meal there. I don’t know what we would do without them,” she says.
Jennie Stipick, 55, who works as a financial advisor, got involved as an organizer for the Soupremes recently. In November she served food to the men at the shelter, where she says the efforts of the Soupremes were appreciated. When the group serving the food left, the men gave them a standing ovation.
“It could easily be considered a labor of love,” she says about the volunteer cooks.
For information visit www.olachurch.org.