Stewpot to host fundraiser to save free lunch service

(KATV) With several organizations ending their homeless feeding services in recent months, the Stew Pot in downtown Little Rock is getting an influx of people in need of a warm lunch and now they're at risk of running out of money.

Not only is the line of people growing but one of their major funding sources is ending and they're now using the money in savings. With a $7,000 a month grocery bill, you can understand how quick the money is depleting.

Since 1972, the Stew Pot has been open five days a week and runs solely on volunteers and donations.

Everyone cooking and waiting on tables here at the Stew Pot at First Presbyterian Church is a volunteer, and much of the food is donated.

The amount of people in need of a warm lunch has doubled this year and mathematically that means the need for volunteers and food is greater. They're already making cut backs on meats, substituting some dishes with hot dogs or serving chicken noodle soups without the chicken.

Upwards of 200 people show up for lunch during the week. They are not all homeless, some have a family, a home and a job but ends don't meet.

"We hope to be able to do a lot more, the more volunteers we get, the more we can do." Dee Dee Boniecki is with Open Door Outreach, a volunteer organization that's helping raise money for the Stew Pot. Saturday, November 10, they're hosting an all you can eat pancake breakfast with refreshments for $5 per person.

Boniecki says, "All proceeds will come to help fund Stew Pot." She continues, "It's a necessity. Lunch is a very underserved need in the downtown area; this is just about the only place they can go."

Charles Neely says, "I came here and got a hot nutritious meal." When Neely lost his job in 2001, he became homeless and came to the Stew Pot daily. He is now back on his feet and volunteers everyday and doesn't want the financial troubles to force the non-profit to limit the days they're open or run out of food.

Neely says, "I am proud of this place and now I am able to give back for the opportunity given to me."

Once a week a nursing staff volunteers their time and a doctor and pharmacist are available. Thursday's the clothing closet is open.

The Pancake breakfast fundraiser will be November 10 at First Presbyterian Church at 800 Scott Street in downtown Little Rock from 8 a.m. - 11 a.m. If you want to volunteer call, Jan Van Ness (501) 680-3739. You can make a monetary donation by addressing it to the Stew Pot at 800 Scott Street, Little Rock, AR 72201.