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Students ladle up service at Canton soup kitchen

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CANTON — Every Friday night, the Grace Episcopal Church opens its doors to anyone who wants a bowl of hot soup. Students from SUNY Canton descend into the church basement weekly to assist with the program, which has been running for about a year and a half.

The Grace Episcopal Church decided last year to start offering meals on Friday nights, joining the Unitarian Universalist church, which serves meals on Mondays, and the United Methodist church, which offers food on Wednesdays.

The church now serves about 200 meals a week.

Not only do people get food when they come in the door, they also get a container of soup to take home.

“Some of the people may not have a means of cooking over the weekend,” said the Reverend Evette E. Austin.

In addition to serving as the priest of the Episcopal church, the Rev. Mrs. Austin is also a campus minister at SUNY Canton. She was looking for ways to get student more involved in serving their community.

“That’s what we were looking at, service over self,” she said.

Between 14 and 20 students help out at the kitchen every week, cooking the food, serving it and washing the dishes. Most are members of fraternities and sororities. Some show up only a few times a semester, enough to fulfill the service requirements held by most college Greek organizations, while some return week after week.

“It makes me feel good about helping people in the community,” said Lauren E. Cody, a junior studying early childhood education and a sister of the Alpha Xi Omicron sorority.

Ms. Cody said she has served at the kitchen almost every week this semester.

“It’s not just to get our letters out there,” she said. “We’re more than just Greeks.”

When the work slows down, it is common to see the students socializing with those they are serving, the Rev. Mrs. Austin said.

“You bring in the young and the elderly together,” she said.

According to Christopher W. Thomas, a senior studying electrical engineering, volunteering at the soup kitchen is about more than fulfilling the 15 hours of community service required of all members of the Alpha Theta Gamma fraternity. It is a way of showing the community that there is more to Greeks than parties.

“It kind of shows them that it’s not your typical stereotype frat,” he said.

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