By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — Elijah’s Bowl, a community soup kitchen founded in 1991, will now be able to expand its services after being awarded $2,500 — thanks to a recommendation by Leck Kill farmer Matthew Lucas and America’s Farmers Grow Communities organization.
Sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of Monsanto Co., Grow Communities provides eligible farmers the chance to win a $2,500 donation for a local nonprofit organization of their choice.
Lucas was selected by Monsanto to find an appropriate recipient of the grant; he chose Elijah’s Bowl because of its positive impact on their community.
“My wife and I are eager to help support Elijah’s Bowl and the work they’re doing to feed the hungry and those in need in our area,” Lucas said.
Added Elijah’s Bowl board member Becky Enders: “We expect to get the money within two weeks. We will be using the funds to feed our 100 to 150 guests who attend Elijah’s Bowl every Saturday.”
Steven and Connie Lenig, of Northumberland, founded Elijah’s Bowl at Sunbury’s First Presyterian Church.
“On that first day,” Steve Lenig recalled, “we prepared food to feed 100 people and wound up serving 11 meals. By the end of the year, however, we were serving 400 meals a month.”
Said Enders: “Now, we’ll have standing room only some weekends. I expect we’ll be very busy Saturday. Easter Sunday, of course, is this week.”
The Lenigs are clear about the purpose of Elijah’s Bowl: at lunchtime every Saturday, they address not only physical hunger, but people’s need to be heard and to feel loved. Everyone is welcome.
“We accept everyone here,” Steve Lenig said. “We don’t ask what their income is. In the beginning, we had people come in with suits on because they wanted to see what it was all about. And through that, they gave us money because they saw what we were doing. We don’t care who comes in.”
Besides the prepared meals, there is a giveaway table set up with donated breads, cakes, pies and grocery items given to Elijah’s Bowl by Valley stores, restaurants and churches.
“The people who come here,” Lenig said, “we want to make them feel significant. We learn their names and call them by their first names. They usually sit at the same table every week, and cheer each other up until the next Saturday, when they can come in again.
This year, the Monsanto Fund will invest nearly $6 million in rural America through Grow Communities, which includes double donations for counties that have been declared natural disaster areas by the United States Department of Agriculture because of drought. In Pennsylvania, $77,500 is being given by Monsanto to organizations across 28 counties.
The Farmers Grow Communities program was launched in 2011 as part of the company’s effort to strengthen rural America.