The Lighthouse Soup Kitchen at First Presbyterian Church of Orange serve lunch every Tuesday and Friday. From left, volunteers Mary Jo Smith, Bettye Melton and Kathy Melton. RECORD PHOTO: David Ball

Aquilla Starr has been volunteering at the Lighthouse Soup Kitchen at the First Presbyterian Church of Orange nearly since its inception in September 1984.

“I’ve been here since 1985,” she said. “My aunt seen an ad in the paper and thought it was something I could do. It’s a blessing the Lord has supplied to be on the serving side rather than the receiving side.”

She and others who serve say the soup kitchen ministry is a wonderful outreach to not only serve the hungry, but to be of service to the community. 

Coordinator Carolyn Colburn said they’ve average serving 80 to 100 people for two days a week.

“We have 50 volunteers who work in teams. We serve a good, hot, nutritious meal,” Colburn said.

In addition to First Presbyterian, other church teams who serve include the Church of Christ on MLK Drive, Wesley United Methodist Church and St. Mary’s Catholic Church. She added one does not need to attend church to serve or to be served.

The ministry is always in need of volunteers, too, because there are more to serve. At least five to six on a team are needed to serve.

Just four years ago, for instance, the ministry was serving around 50 to 60 before it expanded to 100.

“There’s been more since the economy has gone down,” Colburn said. “There’s more children during the summer. We used to see the same faces every week. Now, we’re seeing more new faces than usual.

“We communicate with them. We serve the hungry and glorify God. Some volunteers have been on the other side of the line and needed a meal. They want to serve and give back.”

The soup kitchen serves good, hearty food such as vegetable stew, fruit salad, garlic bread and cookies. Something different is served each day. They are also thrifty— most meals are under $2 a meal.

For Thanksgiving and Christmas, a traditional turkey dinner with pies was served. HEB donated the turkeys.

“We do something a little more special. We decorate here like it’s a nice home meal. They really appreciate it,” she said.

Though most of the volunteers are retirees, some younger volunteers are stepping up. Youth groups from churches have also been serving and members of the Lamar State College-Orange Student Government Association have been helping out.

In addition to serving, the volunteers also fellowship with the people and with one another.

The Lighthouse Soup Kitchen serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays at First Presbyterian, 902 W. Green Ave. The ministry is looking for volunteers and/or donations.