A busy stay-at-home mother, Cheri Beck spends her days caring for other people, so it feels only natural to also spend her free time feeding hungry people throughout her community.
Cheri, 39, of Stevensville, has been volunteering with the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen for several years, a job she calls rewarding. Cheri typically organizes volunteers to run the soup kitchen twice a month, making sure there is enough food to serve and enough hands to serve it.
Despite how much thought and dedication she gives her volunteer position now, Cheri says that she came into her position at the soup kitchen almost on a whim.
Cheri got involved with the soup kitchen through her church, First Congregational Church in St. Joseph, not long after she and her husband moved to Michiana from Chicago eight years ago.
“A year or so after we joined [the church], the volunteer coordinator was looking to pass the baton on to someone else, and I thought, ‘well, I guess I can just go and check it out,’” Cheri says. “I went one day, and it turned out I loved it.”
From then on, Cheri began running the volunteer days at the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen for her church, occasionally filling in for other volunteers when the need arises.
Ever since that first day, Cheri says that she has not looked back and that she loves the work she does.
“Everyone at the kitchen is so lovely,” Cheri says. “They are always helpful and there is something so rewarding about working side by side with these people and getting the job done.”
Cheri says she has many stories to share about why she loves the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen, from times people have rallied together to make sure that a hot meal goes out, to several heartwarming stories about visitors to the kitchen. However, there is one story that sticks out in her mind the most.
“There’s an older gentleman who has been coming [to the soup kitchen] for years and it’s always great to see him walk in the door,” Cheri says. “One day, he told me that his bike had been stolen, and I just so happened to have a bike at home. So, I went and got it for him. It’s just cool to be able to connect with people and be able to say, ‘how can I help you and how can I get it for you?’”
While Cheri connected with this visitor specifically, she said that it is easy to connect with most of the visitors to the soup kitchen.
“A smile and a ‘hey, how are you’ goes a long way,” Cheri says. “It’s just like anyone else in your life. Introduce yourself and have a conversation.”
This year will mark the first year that Cheri will be running the Christmas Eve dinner at the soup kitchen, something she said she is excited about, despite her anxiety.
“I think it will be fun and a good experience,” Cheri says. “I think it will be enjoyable. After all, we will be serving others. Isn’t that what the holidays are about?”
How to give:
To donate to or become a volunteer for the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen, visit
the website at soupk.org.
Photography by Wes Jerdon/Westley Leon Studios