Arriving with children, their belongings or just coming alone, people began to stroll into the back of the Ascension Episcopal Church in Westminster between 11:30 a.m. and noon Wednesday, waiting to see what would be served for lunch this week.

Feeding those who are less fortunate is the mission of the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen at the church, the same as it's been since it began three decades earlier.


Taking its name from the biblical event, the Feeding of the 5,000, according to coordinator Nina Price, Loaves and Fishes is considered the first soup kitchen in Westminster. On any given Wednesday the soup kitchen will receive between 95 and 115 people in need of a meal, Price said.

With 15 to 22 people volunteering every Wednesday, the soup kitchen never goes without help.

"All of our volunteers work very hard, everyone does a little of something," Price said.

"I thank God for them," said Westminster resident Joe Dorsey, of the dedicated volunteers that run the soup kitchen, while partaking in a meal Wednesday.

Each week there is a different meal served and a coordinator who organizes that meal — the first week of the month is a chicken dish, the second week is hot dogs and beans, then there is a pasta dish the third week, chili for the fourth week and potluck for the fifth week, if necessary, Price said. The kitchen is currently in the process of looking for a coordinator for the second and fifth weeks, according to Price.

The kitchen ensures that they use the freshest ingredients for the public, preparing the food the morning of service, she said.

"All the cooking is made from scratch and we really take time to give nutritional food to the less fortunate," said Dennis Ford, president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Baltimore, a ministry of St. John Catholic Church in Westminster, which now runs the soup kitchen.

Volunteers range from those who have been there from the beginning, like Price and 92-year-old Westminster resident Gloria Thomas, to newcomers like Don Buchal, of Westminster, who started volunteering three months ago.

"I saw a notice on the bulletin board at St. John's Church and I just wanted to do more to help out," Buchal said.

Eleven-year-old Faith Zapato, of Reisterstown, volunteers at the kitchen a few days out of the month alongside her grandmother, Sandy Krause, of Westminster, who has volunteered for 10 years.

"I think service work is something within you and part of your DNA," Krause said. "With a soup kitchen you never know who is going to come through those doors."

Doors open at 11:30 a.m. for coffee and pastries, and lunch is served at noon — they are open to any and all in the public, according to Price.

Thirty minutes before lunch is served, all the volunteers gather in the kitchen for the Lord's Prayer, followed by individual prayers. Then at noon, a volunteer leads the Lord's Prayer in the dining hall before the meal is served.

Any leftover food in the kitchen is packaged and given to the public to take home, but not before seconds is called, according to Price.


"Down here in Carroll County they massively feed you," said Manchester resident Betty Crowl, who has been to soup kitchens in Pennsylvania and Maryland since 1994.

"I say if you go hungry in Carroll County it is your fault because there are so many soup kitchens out here."

Roland Ensor has been going to soup kitchens all his life, and never misses a Wednesday meal at Loaves and Fishes.

"I come good and hungry," Ensor said. "I come to see my friends."

Loaves and Fishes was founded by Judy McPherson and Brian Cox, directors of the Resurrection Farms in Silver Run, according to Price.

"We were the first ones to have a soup kitchen and now it is set up that there will be a soup kitchen every day of the week by other churches in Westminster, so no one goes hungry," Price said. "Nothing is ever wasted and no one ever goes hungry."

Taking in immigrants and helping them get assimilated into the community, McPherson and Cox came to the decision to feed the poor and to start a soup kitchen with the blessings of St. John Catholic Church and Ascension Episcopal Church, Price said.

Funded by the parishioners of the St. John's Church, all funds pay for the food and paper goods that are needed, according to Price.

"All of the money collected goes straight to the society and into the poor box. This poor box sustains us," Price said.

Once McPherson and Cox retired, Ed Craig took over, and since his passing, members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society have taken over running the soup kitchen, according to Price.