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The Cobblers Soup Lunch Group marked four years of operation at the end of July, but there was little time for celebration.

There were more soups to be made and served, and even some after-hours deliveries to be made.

The group, known in Ōtaki simply as “the Soupers” began their lunch offering in 2017 after a discussion at the Cobblers charity shop about the number of people who might enjoy not only a hot soup once a week, but also some companionship.

So with assistance from Cobblers’ benefactor, the Cobwebs Trust, the group of volunteers began the lunch at the Supper Room next to the library. Asking only for a koha – and nothing if people can’t afford it – a range of nourishing soups and bread rolls are dished up every Thursday from 11am to 1pm. All the takings go back to Cobwebs for community projects.

Two of the main drivers of the group, Sheila and Tony Hart, say the numbers attending have steadily grown in four years. Up to 90 people now turn up.

“We’re getting all sorts of people coming along,” Tony says. “Some people thought it was like a ‘soup kitchen’ for desperate people, but it’s nothing like that. We find that people are joining us for the companionship, and we’re getting more and more young people – including young mums and their kids.

“It’s terrific to see everyone enjoying themselves.”

The soupers’ reputation for tasty soups is undoubtedly also a factor. The meals are usually made with whatever is donated and in season. But Tony and Sheila have developed a talent for adding spices and herbs to come up with sought-after soups, which they make in their own kitchen at home.

The soups include pumpkin, kūmera, leek & potato, tomato tortellini, ham & veg, lamb & veg, asparagus, mexican black bean, minestrone, curried carrot & cashew . . . and many more.

More soups are made than are needed for the day, so the couple pour them into pottles and deliver them personally to people they know can’t get to the lunch because of disability or age. That service was motivated by last year’s lockdown.

“We knew people were sitting alone at home, and we couldn’t offer them our usual lunch,” Sheila says. “So when we got to Level 3, we started delivering them. some people cried because of the simple fact that someone had thought of them.”

Meantime, the soupers are looking for a large upright freezer in which to put their steadily growing stock of food.

“If anyone can give us one, it would be much appreciated.”

Tony and Sheila don’t work alone. Every Thursday and often during the week they work alongside others, including Mary Malloy, Jill Watson, Lynne and Christine Eathorne, Erika and Mike Iles-Wallis, Sue, Pamela Kinghorn, Lyn McPherson, Lorraine Mathie, and Alan Stead.

It’s a group effort, we couldn’t do it without them,” Tony says.

ALL READY: Tony and Sheila Hart with soups packaged in their kitchen, ready to be delivered around Ōtaki.    

Photo Ian Carson


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