Each fall, the Council of Catholic Women at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Lenoir City gathers to fill 60-70 quart mason jars with dry ingredients for a hearty meal of bean soup.
These “Soup Jars of Love” are then given to the St. Thomas Friendship Kitchen committee to distribute to recipients of a meals-on-wheels type of program in Loudon County around Thanksgiving. The CCW women fill the jars, decorate the lids, and attach the recipe to the jar. During the holiday seasons, this provides additional meals as families might need them. In addition to the Soup Jars of Love, the CCW stuffs bags with wrapped candies to be distributed around Christmas.
The Friendship Kitchen program is an ecumenical program supported by volunteers from St. Thomas the Apostle, Loudon United Methodist Church, Tellico Village Community Church, Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church, Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church, Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, and the Piney Ruritan Club.
Meals are prepared and delivered every Monday. St. Thomas volunteers have been handling meals once a month for more than 15 years. One group of St. Thomas volunteers prepares and packages the meals in the parish family life center kitchen. A second group prepares desserts in their homes, which are then paired with the main meals.
A third group of volunteers delivers the meals late in the afternoon to neighbor recipients. Currently, St. Thomas has more than 100 volunteers who work on teams preparing and delivering approximately 70 evening meals to needy persons each month. St. Thomas provides the meals on the second Monday of each month.
The volunteers find it so very rewarding to see the gratitude in the eyes of those families receiving these meals. The volunteers are blessed as well.