OAKHURST, CA—Say what you will, Facebook can be a force for good and positive change. Take Soup 4 Friends, for example.
Back in December 2020 Teena Hagerman initiated a conversation in a Facebook group regarding the homeless and others in the area not having access to resources, especially due to COVID. Sarah Roemer jumped at the opportunity to help. They connected with Michele Gonzales, Sue Higgins, Polly Hayes and others already involved in community outreach. They banded together to offer their first meal to the community on January 7, 2021, and they have continued to do so every Sunday since.
Currently, the core members number from ten to sixteen, including Sarah, her husband Stephen Eric Douglass (Eric), Deanna and Tony Spacke, Luke Starner, Michele Gonzales, Sue Higgins, and others. Eric and Sarah generally run it with Deanna, Luke and others providing support to set up and serve each week.
Soup 4 Friends gets together each Sunday in front of the Oakhurst Branch Library and serve 25-plus meals per week. There are no qualifications for receiving the meals, and Sarah emphasizes, “We do our best to provide meals and resources to anyone in need. Persons may pick up meals at the library, or if we know where they are we will take food to them.”
The crew operates year-round, aiming to provide a warm meal during cold weather and refreshing meals when it’s hot, in addition to providing fruit, salad, snacks, dessert, beverages. They also put together several “family” boxes each week which include shelf stable and non-perishable foodstuffs that can be cooked and prepared over a stove for those who are able.
Volunteers are always welcome (and needed), especially to make soup (at least 25 to 30 ten-ounce servings), to provide salad and bread weekly. Occasionally calls go out for serving help on Sundays. Sarah tries to schedule volunteers out over time to help provide meal distribution support. Table setup starts about noon and wraps for the day by 3:00 pm at the latest, every Sunday.
Volunteers can help by coordinating with Sarah to make meals/soup/baking bread or dessert, putting together goodie bags, like toiletry bags, snack bags, etc. Anyone wishing to contribute food stuffs, please bring items to the Oakhurst Library at noon on Sundays to get distributed to those in need.
If someone wishes to drop off other donations, they can do so during the Sunday afternoon time period. Although contributions are not tax deductible, Soup 4 Friends appreciates gift cards to Grocery Outlet, Vons, Raleys or Amazon. PayPal donations can be made to Sarah at SRoemer@PayPal.com. All donations go to support Soup 4 Friends community efforts. In addition to food, they also provide toiletries, clothing, shoes, socks. gallons of water, sleeping bags, bug repellant, first aid kits, reading glasses, and other things as they are able.
Asked their greatest need right now, Sarah replied that she needs meal volunteers plus gift cards to cover what they don’t receive otherwise.
Soup 4 Friends began as a labor of love as well as a Halloween event down in Visalia; at that time it was called Pirates for Hope. Stephen Eric Douglass “accidentally” started Pirates for Hope some 16 years ago, by decorating his home for Halloween each year, always pirate themed, growing bigger each year until he turned it into a charity by hosting toy, food, and clothing drives.
About three years ago Eric and Sarah moved their efforts to Coarsegold and hosted pirate themed Halloween events to benefit Manna House, but COVID shut down those efforts in 2020. Despite the shutdown, Eric and Sarah still recognized a community need. Enter Teena Hagerman’s Facebook post, and the rest is history. The Facebook group now numbers 155 members, is public and new “recruits” are always welcome.
Sarah says, “We would like to communicate to all readers that anyone, everyone, anywhere and everywhere can make a difference, great or small. We are not well off. I am a bartender, my husband is a handy man. We live frugally and give as much as we can. Together with the community our meager efforts have provided well over 1,000 meals, one hundred family boxes, and countless other items. Together our efforts have made the difference between a hungry tummy or a full one. We know we cannot solve the world’s problems, but every caring act matters.”
Soup 4 Friends would also like to thank Tom Wheeler’s office for helping coordinate cleanup efforts, recently having cleared over 7,200l pounds of trash from one transient area while providing dumpsters to another area, thanks to EMADCO.
Asked about plans for the upcoming holidays, Sarah notes, “Every holiday, we try to do a little something special. This Thanksgiving we are coordinating a traditional spread and welcome volunteers to make sides. We also could really use a couple of turkeys! Christmas will be the same. We’d like to do ham and all the fixins’, and welcome volunteers to contact me to coordinate our efforts.”
To volunteer to prep meals, contact Soup 4 Friends. Bring in-kind, gift card or cash donations to Oakhurst Community Park on Sunday afternoons or make a cash donation via Sarah’s PayPal account. Any amount helps. Any labor helps. You can make a difference.
Photos courtesy of Sarah Roemer.