Soup's On

For anyone who’s hungry

Connie Hoffmann made potato soup at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Port Washington last Saturday. She has led the church’s stone soup group in making meals for those in need the past several weeks. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Coming from a family with seven children, Connie Hoffmann had plenty of opportunity to hone her cooking skills at an early age.

“I started cooking when I was 11 because the rest of the family were all working,” she said. “Cooking for a lot of people wasn’t a big task. It’s more difficult for me to take a small pot and cook a meal than it does a big pot.”

Hence the Cedar Grove resident often helps in the kitchen at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Port Washington.

“That’s my comfort spot—in the sink. It was just a natural kind of thing to do,” she said.

She wanted to do more. Not long ago, Hoffmann and her daughter Becki Hill were thinking of another way to help people in need and developed the idea of making stone soup, based on the folk tale.

As the story goes, Hoffmann said, a boy enters a town with a pot and a couple of stones and begins to boil water. When a neighbor asks what he is doing, the boy says he is making stone soup. The neighbor declares soup can’t be made with stones and goes to get carrots. Other neighbors bring more items to add and they all end up enjoying a hearty bowl of soup, sans stones.

Hoffmann’s plan was similar.

“They donate the vegetables and broth, and I make the soup and it goes back into the neighborhood,” she said.

She had to clear the initiative with church leadership first and quickly received a blessing. Her husband Paul is president of the church council.

“He seemed to think it was OK,” she said.

The first week, Hoffmann and Hill peeled vegetables in the church’s kitchen and made 44 pints of soup.

“I imagined a couple of big kettles of soup going to a few of our elderly congregation members,” Hoffmann said. “We figured one or two weeks we’d make soup.”

Hoffmann said a higher power had other plans. She and a group of volunteers have made soup every Saturday for the last six weeks with no plans to stop. Last Saturday, 124 pints of cream of potato soup left Christ the King’s kitchen.

“Jesus has the wheel on this one for sure. There’s no other way to say it,” Hoffmann said. “I don’t even call and ask for volunteers. They show up.”

Six to 10 people have come to the church each Saturday at 9 a.m. to start making the soup. By 1 p.m., filled pint containers are heading out the door.

“It’s almost scary the way it’s all come together,” Hoffmann said.

She comes in the day before to set up tables — one each for chopping, peeling, stirring, washing dishes, labeling and so on.

“We change throughout the day so nobody gets bored,” she said.

The group makes one type of soup each week and informally chooses the next week’s batch. This week, she plans to make meatless vegetable soup because it’s Holy Week.

The amount of donated ingredients can help drive the menu. An overabundance of beans led to bean with bacon soup, and last week’s choice was made because “we were just gifted with 200 pounds of potatoes,”

Hoffmann said, which didn’t seem daunting at first — only 20 10-pound bags.

“It doesn’t sound big until you actually see them. That’s a lot of potatoes,” she said.

Recipients have grown to include the Port and Saukville food pantries, a group home in Mequon, Advocates of Ozaukee and shut-ins, as well as others church members think could use a meal.

Hoffmann gave two pints of soup to one woman whose husband recently died, figuring it would last for two meals. She liked the soup so much she ate them both for supper.

The group often gets the same reaction from those devouring the soup.

“Make more. I really enjoyed it,” Hoffmann said.

She garners donations by putting baskets at Christ the King and Living Hope Lutheran in Saukville — both members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — each Wednesday when the churches hold

Lenten services, but donations are accepted any time.

“They’re just to leave it at the front of the door and we’ll find it, and if we don’t find it and someone else took it then they need it more than us,” Hoffmann said.

The Saukville Community Food Pantry provides all the meat for the soups.

“That’s a huge savings right there,” Hoffmann said.

A $250 grant from Thrivent, a nonprofit financial services organization founded by Lutherans, purchased two 20-quart pots to upgrade from kitchen-sized kettles.

“This area just seems to be so wonderful with all their giving; it’s just phenomenal,” Hoffmann said.

Doing the math to make such large batches of soup was easy for Hoffmann.

“You just keep doubling it,” she said of the recipes.

Hoffmann runs a tight ship in the kitchen. Volunteers are given a several-page handout on hand washing and how to properly wear a mask. A multipurpose room is available if the kitchen gets too crowded, and most of the regular volunteers have had both shots of the coronavirus vaccine.

Hoffmann is a retired nurse who worked for a nursing home in Sheboygan.

“That sticks with you forever,” she said of safety protocols. “We’re very careful, especially knowing it’s going to our shut-ins and our elderly.”

Volunteers are typically older, but once a Port High student came to earn service hours.

“He was a humongous help and such a good kid,” Hoffmann said.

“You don’t need to be a cook to help out,” her husband Paul said. “We need some peelers.”

It sometimes can be difficult to tell that hard work is actually being done during the four-hour stretch each Saturday.

“We just have a ball doing this — the laughing and the giggling that goes on with these silver-haired ladies,” Hoffmann said.

Stone Soup already has a Facebook group with 74 members.

“It’s been a really, really neat thing to watch it grow,” Paul Hoffmann said.

“It’s got a life of its own at this point,” Hoffmann said.

Kitchen work doesn’t stop for her when she goes home.

“I like to cook anything that makes people happy. If it makes them smile, I love to cook it,” she said.

Comfort foods — “anything that would have come out of grandma’s kitchen” — are a specialty, such as chicken and gravy and spaghetti sauce that simmers for two days and “is pretty decent.”

Volunteering is nothing new for Hoffmann and her husband, who are originally from upstate New York. Paul had worked for Troy Bilt but took a job with Bolens in Port Washington and the couple moved to the city, later moving to Cedar Grove. They both sing in Christ the King’s choir and run study groups. Paul, who has played guitar and banjo since he was 12 and spent 35 years in bands in New York, plays in Christ the King’s praise band. His son is the drummer.

Ultimately, Hoffmann would like to get a food truck to deliver the soup and offer personal items to those in need.

This spring, she may ask people to add a cucumber plant to their gardens to donate or add some raised garden beds behind Living Hope so the soup group can grow its own ingredients.

“It’s going to go where God wants it to go,” she said.

It’s already growing. Hoffmann’s sister’s church in Albany, N.Y., got wind of the group and is starting its own enterprise.

Hoffmann said she will help anyone start their own soup-making group at other churches. People are asked to contact her through Christ the King’s website at

Monetary donations to the Christ the King stone soup group may be sent to the church at 421 Whitefish Rd., Port Washington 53074.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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