By Ben Olson
Two years ago, Savannah Mort asked her husband what he wanted for his birthday. She had no idea his request would end up launching a soup kitchen that fed the community every week.
“For his birthday, he wanted the whole family to volunteer at a soup kitchen,” said Mort. “I got to thinking, ‘Let’s just start our own.’ We have this great community and there’s not anything like that on our end of town.”
It was out of her husband’s request that the Hoot Owl’s weekly soup kitchen was born.
“I asked my mom [Hoot Owl owner Wendy Sater] if we could use the restaurant on Monday nights,” said Mort. “We’ve been doing it ever since.”
Offered every Monday evening from 4 to 7 p.m. since February 2013, the soup kitchen serves anywhere between 60 and 100 people every week.
Mort, who serves as the “soup kitchen coordinator,” organizes the gathering every week, utilizing both donations from the community, as well as from the Hoot Owl.
“I have a group of people and we make Crock-Pots of soup at home, or casseroles and bring it in,” said Mort. “The Hoot Owl donates a pot of soup every Monday and my mom will usually make up a big dessert. We get a lot of people bringing in soup and volunteering, as well as financial donations, and I just want to make sure they know we appreciate it.”
Mort was quick to point out that her mom Wendy Sater, the owner of the Hoot Owl, does so much for the community and deserves to be recognized.
“She always tells me, ‘You do all the work and I get all the credit,’” said Mort. “But she deserves a lot of the credit, too.”
One such event that the Saters host at the Hoot Owl is the annual Spaghetti Feed, which raises money for the Sandpoint Lions Club’s Toys For Tots program. This year, the event raised over $1,400 for Toys For Tots.
When asked if there are any restrictions or eligibility requirements for who can attend the soup kitchen, Mort was quick to point out it is open and free for everyone.
“It’s an open kitchen, for everybody,” she said. “There are people that come in and really need the soup, and there are people who are just lonely at heart who want to find a fellowship. We get people from all walks of life.”
After spending nearly two years feeding the community every week, Mort has come to appreciate the gravity of the issues of homelessness and poverty in North Idaho.
“I feel like [homelessness] is kind of a hush hush situation,” she said. “Nobody wants to talk about it and address it. Somebody needs to address it. If we had the resources right now, we’d open up a shelter. There are so many people who could benefit from that.”
One example Mort recalled that warmed her heart was an older gentleman who had been living in a tent and attending the soup kitchen every week.
“It was starting to get cold,” said Mort. “Every week I asked him how it was going, how he was doing. We ended up providing him with some resources. Eventually he found a home and is doing well. There are a lot of stories like that, and it warms my heart to hear them.”
Mort considers her role at the soup kitchen a necessary duty for her community and her faith.
“I really feel like God told us to do it and put it in our hearts,” she said. “It’s important for my kids to be aware, and I want them to have hearts and compassion. That’s where my heart is at. There are people who genuinely need the food, but also some of the people just need someone to know their name, that they exist in this world. Our world is so broken, if we can bring any light to it, we’re doing something good.”
If anyone is interested in volunteering at Savannah Mort’s soup kitchen Monday nights, please call the Hoot Owl at (208) 265-9348. If you’d like to attend the soup kitchen, it is free and open to all every Monday night from 4 to 7 p.m.
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