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Family Volunteer Idea: Stone Soup

Family Volunteer Idea: Stone Soup

A hot pot of soup, steaming on the stove, is a welcome and nourishing sight during the harsh winter months.  Shelters, churches and other organizations serving people in need are stretched even more during winter and would welcome the donation of premade meals, such as soup or casseroles.  Holding a “Stone Soup” event – perhaps with family and friends – can help both social service organizations and the hungry in our midst. 

In the Stone Soup story, a stranger enters a village. After being told by all the villagers that there was no food to eat, he put a pot of water on a fire to boil and put a big stone in the pot. The villagers grew curious. One by one, they began contributing one ingredient each, until they had assembled a hearty soup for all to feast on.

The United Way movement was founded on the same idea, that each one of us can give, advocate and volunteer to improve conditions in our communities. The story also provides an inspiring theme for a group of volunteers. Stone Soup events ask each volunteer to contribute an ingredient and participate in making meals – usually a casserole or hearty soup. United Ways have found that Stone Soup events are great for families, as they are fun, tangible, group projects that yield immediate results in a couple of hours. Children can readily understand why they are preparing a meal for someone who is hungry, and the activity may spark a long-term interest in volunteering.

United Way of Central Maryland and United Way of South Hampton Roads have mobilized many hundreds of volunteers to deliver hundreds of casseroles and sandwiches to soup kitchens, shelters and other organizations. Both United Ways are hosting Stone Soup events again this winter.

As you gather with friends and family for meals, I hope you’ll remember the Stone Soup story, and share it with others.  Perhaps each person at your gathering could bring a prepared ingredient for a casserole or soup, and you can assemble it while your meal is cooking.  Or each guest could bring canned goods to be donated.  Your local United Way will know which organizations would benefit from your family’s Stone Soup.  Just be sure to ask the organization receiving the meal what kind of food donation would be of greatest benefit.

Small contributions by many will mean a better life for all.  I hope you’ll let us know if you were inspired by the Stone Soup story, and how you brought the story to life in your community.