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Soup Nite in Grayson gives Hungry Families Warm Meals

Some of the women at Highlands Presbyterian Church have found a solution to world hunger. Or at least, a solution for their part of the world.

Volunteers with Soup Nite at Highlands Church. L-R: Andrea Eklund, Charles Roberts, Jane Statham, Lee Raga, Eunice Bolling, Gertha Billington and Carrie Macaluso.

It all started in 2011 when Carrie Macaluso and Jane Statham put their heads together to start a service ministry out of Highlands Presbyterian Church. Since Highlands is considered amongst the smaller congregations in Gwinnett County, they decided to pair up with the local Food Co-Op in Grayson.

They met with Laura Drake of The Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry to discuss the possibility of handing out meals during the Co-Op’s food pick-up days in which food-insecure families receive boxes of free groceries. “After picking up groceries, you don’t want to then go home and start cooking, so we offer a hot meal at our church. That way, they can either take it to go home and feed their families or eat it then and there,” said Jane.

On this premise, the “Highlands Soup Nite” was established. Held on the second and fourth Monday of the month, the Soup Nites are hosted at the church.

Mr. Carlton Winfrey Jr. and Xavier McCalla enjoying Soup Nite at Highlands Church.Mr. Carlton Winfrey Jr. and Xavier McCalla enjoying soup Nite at Highlands Church.Since the program was launched in 2012, it has become much more than a soup night. They started out serving soups out of crockpots, but they grew larger in numbers. In 2014, Highlands partnered with the Atlanta Community Food Bank to purchase a variety of foods. At this point in time, they grew to offer more than just soups.

“Originally, we wanted to invite people to sit down with their family and eat with us. As it turns out, most people pick-up their food and go home.”

Church volunteers prepare enough food for 100 to 120 visitors at each event, and the meals are often served out of containers donated by the local McDonald’s in Grayson.

“The McDonald’s in Grayson has been a wonderful help! For the past six years, the manager, Barbara Hackinson, has graciously donated containers for soups and stews. Recently McDonald’s also donated hamburgers to the ministry, and for many, it was such a treat!” Jane said.

Soup Nite 1: L-R: Eunice Bolling, Sonja Woodham and Carrie Macaluso.L-R: Eunice Bolling, Sonja Woodham, and Carrie Macaluso.Highlands Soup Nite is also grateful for the contributions of Faith Community Church, whose members have supported the ministry by volunteering to serve and help prepare the food for the bi-monthly events. All of the volunteers go above and beyond, serving the guests with a smile and making them feel like family.

Countless community locals have been fed in the seven years since the ministry was founded. “Some just come once. Others come with tears saying they just lost their job, and they need help, just this once. Some are elderly and live on a pension. Some are regulars, and we’ve gotten to know them. We welcome them all to come and be served.”

It’s a drop in the bucket when it comes to feeding the countless who are hungry in Georgia, not to mention the world, but Carrie and Jane believe the mission is making a difference in Grayson. They hope that other churches will join the effort to meet the hunger needs of those in their own communities.

Grayson Soup Nite takes place on the second and fourth Monday of the month at 4 to 7 p.m. at 830 Grayson Pkwy. in Grayson, Ga. For more information, email and visit the mission’s website