The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

February 28, 2014

Fighting hunger

OTTUMWA — "As one door closes, another door opens."

The closing door is the program nicknamed Meals on Wheels from the Salvation Army (see article) which is ending there. Yet the next door to open is different food program for those in need. This door is to Blessings, a "soup kitchen" that will serve lunch and dinner in downtown Ottumwa.

"We want everyone to be able to come," said Jim "Brother Jim" Wheeler of Ottumwa.

He said if people can't afford to donate, they don't have to. They are not yet planning on making deliveries to homes. But you don't have to be homeless, struggling or alone to eat at the East Second Street soup kitchen — just hungry.

"Everyone is welcome," said Wheeler.

Wheeler, like pastor and kitchen co-founder Gary Smith, has overcome addiction problems, while co-founder Sheri Locke has faced other troubles. Those challenges actually brought the three founders together: Pastor Smith had ministered to both Locke and Wheeler in past years, when each was at a low point in their lives.

If God brought them together, said Wheeler, then it was for the purpose of helping His children.

"I'm doing exactly what I'm meant to be doing," Locke agreed. "Because of our experiences, we know that anybody can need help at any time."

Some of their volunteer staff will be made up of drug court participants doing community service hours. Others may have recently been in jail or left work due to drug and alcohol abuse.

One benefit of getting assistance from the people society may have forgotten about, said Locke, is the sense of worth these helpers regain. Besides, she said, assisting in the construction and operation of a community soup kitchen can look pretty good on a resume for someone who needs to start their life over from scratch.

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