House of Hope Grant

Ameren employees unload a truckload of food donations Wednesday at the Herrin House of Hope.

HERRIN — Wednesday was a busy morning at the Herrin House of Hope.

Outside of the regular hustle and bustle of a service day for the soup kitchen, the House of Hope was welcoming a truckload of donated food items as well as being gifted more than $5,000 by Ameren.

Before service, and before the hubbub of the check presentation, John Steve, executive director of the House of Hope, did as he does most mornings — he greeted and thanked his team. He pointed out much of what a restaurant manager would in a pre-service meeting but he also bolstered the spirit of his crew. Just before the doors were opened, the volunteers — as well as Ameren team members and television newsmen — joined hands and bowed heads as Steve led them in a prayer. He thanked God for the day, his crew and asked that their serviced be blessed.

After a throng of Ameren Workers, politicians and volunteers were gathered together — careful to be out of the way of a regular stream of servers — Ameren Illinois division director Ray Riddle explained the significance of their visit.

“This organization treats people as people. It’s not a soup line. It’s come in and let us take care of you,” Riddle said, pointing out that patrons sit at their own tables and are waited on by smiling volunteers.

“When I walked in, my heart dropped looking at the passion of what these folks do,” Riddle said. “We appreciate everything you guys are doing.”

Ameren has in the past given out checks to charitable organizations. This year, it decided to try something new. At its Marion field office, the company announced a food drive with a twist — for every item of shelf-stable food donated, Ameren would match it with $1.

There were more than 2,000 food items donated, which beefed up the baseline $2,500 check to $5,264.

Steve said this type of donation is a “win-win.”

“Ameren just went all the way out,” Steve said.

He said the kitchen serves, on average, 125 meals a day — in November, he said the total came to 3,400 meals for the month. Steve said this recent donation of cash alone is enough to sustain them for almost an entire month — he said their monthly budget is about $6,000.

On top of the donation Wednesday, Steve said Ameren is also finding time in January to bring a team of employees to help serve at the Herrin House of Hope.

When he found out about the donation, Steve said his heart was filled.

“It felt great. To be assured that people care. People are acknowledging the Herrin House of Hope. People are being aware of the need in our community and that there are still needs out there that needs to be addressed,” he said.

isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Franklin and Williamson counties.

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