OTTUMWA— Pumpkins may not be on the menu, but they’ll help pay for the menu.

Blessings Soup Kitchen Co-director Sheri Locke-Smith is not only serving meals at the soup kitchen, but also selling pumpkins and mums in order to raise money for it; selling 950 mums and hundreds of pumpkins at 22387 Highway 78 at “Old Fort Smith.”

“Kids — it’s something they don’t get to see all the time,” she said. We have loyal customers and always have new customers. A lot of people like to take the field trip out for the season and bring their kids out. I don’t know what’s so special about getting pumpkins, but there is something about it that we all love picking them out. Maybe it’s just when we were kids.”

While she loves seeing the positive reactions from people, there is never a moment where she does not think about how the money raised will continue to help the soup kitchen and the people who eat there.

“On any given day any of us can be hungry,” she said, “it’s not a habit we can stop cold turkey. If you don’t have money to eat Blessings is established to feed you whether you have money or not. By having the funds and continuing with the mums we are able to feed people in a dignified manner, like in a restaurant type situation.”

Locke-Smith said selling the pumpkins and mums especially help elderly people who regularly come to the soup kitchen.

“We try to make it a pleasant part in someone’s day where they don’t have to feel bad because they don’t have food,” she said. They shouldn’t have to worry about where your food is coming when you’re that age. We have a lot of elderly and kids and various scenarios. By continuing this it’s a happy way of not having to ask people for money. It’s a win-win for everyone and a joyful way to raise money.”

Locke-Smith said without the support of the community the soup kitchen would be unable to continue.

“I’m glad people enjoy the atmosphere,” she said, “because that’s got hope assigned to it, too. We have exceeded where I thought we’d end up. The big goal is to sell out. Blessings couldn’t begin to survive if this community wasn’t as loving and caring as it is. It’s an awesome combination of giving hearts.”

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

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