Nonprofit Spotlight

Nonprofit Spotlight

St. Mary's Caring Soup Kitchen

Providing free meals to anyone in need while serving with a spirit of compassion, dignity, and respect.



For the last 29 years, St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen has been a lifesaver for the hungry in Southern Maryland. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to provide free meals to anyone in need, no questions asked. This is achieved through all soup kitchen guests being served with a spirit of compassion, dignity, and respect. St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen also believes that food insecurity not only sickens the body but also eats away at the soul. Thus, the nonprofit strives to create a pathway out of hunger by doing two things: providing nutritional food and treating each guest as a valued individual.

The soup kitchen was founded in 1993 and called “Mary’s Song.” At the time, a pair of Roman Catholic nuns gave sandwiches and soup to those in need. They originally distributed food from a station wagon before moving into a building. After the nuns moved on, they turned the assets over to Dana McGarity, who worked with others in Southern Maryland to create St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen.
Currently, the nonprofit operates as the only full-time soup kitchen in Southern Maryland. It only provides take-and-go meals due to the COVID pandemic’s impact on public health. Free lunches are provided from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. Free breakfast is also available from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturdays. The soup kitchen distributes an average of 50 to 100 meals each day, and around five volunteers are always within the building. During the summer school break, Summer Shine Dinners take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Monday and Thursday. They are held from the start of summer break until school resumes.
While the main purpose of the St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen is to serve meals like these, additional outreach programs and activities are available for guests. One outreach initiative is the Feed the Family program, which involves the creation of weekly food boxes. Those food boxes are given to children in Title 1 schools and to others who are experiencing a food crisis. The junior volunteer program Operation No Starvation also lets children help the community from within the soup kitchen. This program is for children ages 6 to 17. Additionally, the nonprofit invites its partner organizations to share their resources with guests during operating hours. Each month, one to two people from a single organization promote resources that are vital for helping individuals get back on their feet. Overall, the nonprofit collaborates with many human resource organizations in St. Mary’s County. The goal of this is to help restore mental, physical, behavioral, and spiritual wholeness.
In terms of activities, guests enjoy live music and art programs throughout the year. These things are provided by volunteer groups as well as individuals. This demonstrates that St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen is truly a community soup kitchen.
As one may imagine, lots of space is required to carry out so many events. For that reason, St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen recently moved into a new building in order to continue providing for guests. This was made possible by the kindness of Joseph “Bubby” Knott. In April, he bought and donated the building which previously housed the Brass Rail Sports Bar. He did this since he believed that it would assist a positive local effort. 
According to Kristine Millen, the nonprofit’s president and executive director, St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen outgrew its previous location even before the COVID pandemic. The pandemic only exacerbated the issue, with more people than ever finding themselves in need of food. Millen says that for over two years, the soup kitchen has sought a place that is “large enough to meet the growing needs of the community.” This goal did not seem achievable due to “the challenge of finding a suitable location within the Great Mills corridor, as well as the high price of real estate.” However, these concerns vanished thanks to Knott’s donation. “Mr. Knott’s gift to St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen is phenomenal,” says Millen. “It’s still hard to wrap my mind around this beautiful gift. Thanks to the Knott family, there will always be a seat at the table for those who need a little extra help.” Read more in a May 5 article in the County Times.
Thankfully, the efforts of the soup kitchen are not in vain. The hungry have shown great appreciation for the nonprofit’s help. For instance, this testimony was given by a guest named J.D.: “During COVID, we lost everything. First our jobs, then our home. We lived in our car but every day, we were able to get a hot meal, and a friendly smile, at the soup kitchen.” Another guest named Mary also said this: “I’m a single mom trying to support 3 children. I work a minimum wage job and can only get scheduled for 15-18 hours each week. Money is tight, but thanks to the soup kitchen I have food in my cupboard.” Such words of appreciation prove that the organization’s impact on the local community is overwhelmingly positive and undeniable.
Anyone who is interested in supporting St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen can do so in several ways. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and charitable tax-exempt organization, all donations are gladly received. Singular donations can be made through the mail, dropped off in person, sent online, and more. The Family Buddy Program is another mode of donation that fights childhood hunger. It lets people donate either $70 for one week or the equivalent of $280 in a month’s worth of groceries. Additionally, people can donate their time by volunteering in the soup kitchen. While volunteers must be 15 and accompanied by an adult, experience is not required. Volunteers may cook, run food drives, share their artistic talents, and more. The soup kitchen is still developing other ways for people to donate. Public donations are very important since the nonprofit receives no major funding. Instead, it runs on support from the community of Southern Maryland. More information about ways to donate is available at

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Nonprofit Institute
College of Southern Maryland
PO Box 910
La Plata, MD 20646-0910

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