January 20, 2014
|(L to R) Debbie Gillespie, president of the Soup Kitchen Board of Trustees accepts the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Award on behalf of the Soup Kitchen from LMC Board Chairman Dr. David Maysick while KC Gast, vice president of the Soup Kitchen Board looks on.
BENTON TOWNSHIP, MI – During Lake Michigan College’s 19th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at the Mendel Center for Arts and Technology, the College presented its 13th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Diversity Award to the Soup Kitchen in Benton Harbor.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Award is presented annually by the LMC president and Board of Trustees to an individual(s) or organization (s) that embraces and values the diversity of the greater community and promotes connections across differences. Criteria include a demonstrated commitment to enhancing inclusion through community service and professional endeavors; contributions to the progress of humanity, diversity, and the valuing of differences; and leadership in providing increased understanding and respect for diversity.
The Soup Kitchen has been operating continuously for thirty-three years. In its early years, it was operated entirely by The St. Joseph Catholic Church, and was open just three days a week. It was soon obvious that a regular meal provided daily, in a location convenient to patrons in downtown Benton Harbor was needed. The Soup Kitchen rented a small space on Pipestone, not far from Main Street, and began using volunteer groups from area churches to provide daily meals. The need outgrew the space and in 1997, the Soup Kitchen moved from its location on Pipestone to its current location, the former YMCA building (now owned by the Salvation Army). A fundraising effort of approximately a quarter million dollars made the current space possible.
The Soup Kitchen, which serves over 55,000 meals a year, is staffed every day, 365 days a year, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. by approximately 40 churches and professional organizations who donate 7,500 volunteer hours each year. The Soup Kitchen’s administrative staff includes Executive Director Merry Stover and 4 part-time employees from the community.
Past recipients of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Diversity Award are:
- 2013 – The Readiness Center and Sister Paulita Walters, executive director of The Readiness Center
- 2012 - Water Street Glassworks and Frederick S. Upton Foundation
- 2011 - Doug Schaffer, formerly of the Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor
- 2010 - Michigan Works! Berrien-Cass-Van Buren
- 2009 - Marc Peremans and Wendy Ortiz from the Whirlpool Hispanic Network; Martha Cerda and Pedro Ledesma of Enterar Magazine; Van Buren Intermediate School District Administrator Pedro Martinez
- 2008 - All God’s Children Community Choir founders Larry and Sandy Feldman
- 2007 - Reverend James E. Atterberry, Sr.
- 2006 - Former Benton Harbor City Manager Dwight “Pete” Mitchell
- 2005 - Former Benton Harbor Police Chief Samuel Harris
- 2004 - Berrien County Judge Mabel Johnson-Mayfield
- 2003 - Retired Atlantic Automotive Components president Pete Whitehead
- 2002 - Retired Whirlpool Corporation chairman and CEO David Whitwam