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'Soup Lady' feeds plenty and gives oodles more

January 31, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

At REACH, they call her the "Soup Lady."

Once a month for the six months that the REACH cold weather shelter is open each year, Nancy Wallech cooks up between 16 and 20 quarts of soup for meals served to the homeless people who frequent the shelter now permanently housed at 140 W. Franklin St.

She's been at it for nearly 12 years now ... that's a lot of soup.

"There was a little item in the bulletin at St. Andrew's United Methodist Church that REACH needed people to help feed the homeless people at the shelter," Nancy said.

She recalls that was around 1996 when the shelter was in its infancy and moved from church to church through the cold months.

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REACH stands for Religious Efforts to Assist and Care for the Homeless.

Newly retired from Citicorp a year earlier, Nancy began contributing soups such as her ham/bean and vegetable as well as chili on a monthly basis.

That has continued each and every month since. In mid January, she made her famous chili for the shelter.

At Christmastime, Nancy and others from her church did two meals for the shelter. "I made chicken potpie for 50 people," she said. "That was enough for everyone to have seconds."

Others provided green beans and applesauce for those meals.

"The homeless get a bad rap sometimes," Nancy said, commenting that the folks at the shelter have been very gracious and thankful.

Now 74, Nancy likes the name "Soup Lady." But soup isn't the only thing this energetic lady contributes to her community.

After employment all her adult life in office work, Nancy's first foray into the world of volunteering came at the urging of her daughter back in 1995.

"She told me they needed volunteers at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts," Nancy said. So she signed up to volunteer two days a month as a greeter and in the gift shop.

Still at that, now she does volunteers one day a month. "They like that I always bake something when I go," Nancy said. For her Jan. 24 volunteer day at the museum, she baked an orange cake.

One recent afternoon, she spent time making Easter eggs at her church. This year Easter is March 23, very early for the occasion so that work began early.

As if all these activities wouldn't be enough to keep her busy, Nancy also has a "little brother" through Washington County's Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

"My little brother is in the second grade at Bester," Nancy said, noting that she went to school there when it was South Hagerstown Junior High School.

For more than a year, "Miss Nancy" has spent time with her little brother every Wednesday for about 45 minutes. "We read and do maze puzzles," she said.

He especially enjoys playing tick-tack-toe and beating her, she said.

A native Washington County resident, Nancy and her husband, Ralph, live in Hagerstown. She has a daughter, two stepdaughters, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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