Hoot Owl Soup Kitchen
By Jillian Chandler
Photo by Kiersten Patterson Photography
Thirty-four-year-old Savannah Mort was born and raised right here in Sandpoint, Idaho. Married with four children (14, 12, 9 and 7), this stay-at-home mom and online health coach loves to travel, spend time outdoors (skiing, hunting, boating, fishing, swimming,), cook and read, and spend time with family and friends. She keeps busy and loves her life on her little farm. Savannah is also the woman behind the Hoot Owl Soup Kitchen in Ponderay, which has been serving those in need in the community every Monday for the past seven years.
Q. Seven years ago, you and your husband decided to start a soup kitchen in Ponderay at your mother’s restaurant, the Hoot Owl Café. Can you tell our readers a bit more about how the Hoot Owl Soup Kitchen came to be and the inspiration behind it?
A. February 10, 2021, will mark eight years since we started the soup kitchen. For my husband’s birthday, he wanted our family to volunteer together in a soup kitchen. Instead, God laid it on my heart to open our own. I asked my mom if we could utilize her restaurant as a place to hold the soup kitchen, and of course she said, “Yes!”
Q. What role does your mom, Wendy Franck, play when it comes to the Hoot Owl Soup Kitchen?
A. My mom is truly a selfless woman. She has always put others above herself. She allows us to use her building in any capacity we see fit for the soup kitchen. The Hoot Owl provides a large pot of soup each week, plus they help put together salads and desserts! She also spends most Monday evenings spending time with some—or all—of my children while I work the soup kitchen!
Q. Since its inception, what has been your goal in this endeavor (in addition to nourishing the bodies of those in need)?
A. I am so grateful that we are nourishing bodies AND souls. We really try to cultivate an environment where people can come for fellowship and have an outlet as well as eat. It’s been so incredible and such a blessing to me to see people come in need and leave filled up—whether it be full bellies or full hearts. We want to meet people where they are and step into their world. We want them to feel heard, nourished, loved on and acknowledged.
Q. How has the current pandemic impacted the soup kitchen, and how have you adapted to the situation while still being able to provide for those in need?
A. We have not closed down at all through the pandemic. During the initial quarantine we were able to send meals to go through the front window of the restaurant. We did notice an initial increase in numbers in the early days of COVID-19. We counted 250-plus meals one week! I would say we are back to normal now, however, each week always brings us a new face or two!
Q. What do you find most fulfilling by being able to serve others in the community?
A. For me personally, I love the connections and treasured friends I’ve made through the soup kitchen. Nothing fulfills me more than seeing families or individuals going through tough times (homelessness, addiction, having babies, loneliness), being able to pray for them, and watching them through their transition and come out on the other end stronger. I know that sounds so cliché, but it truly is so moving and makes every Monday more than worth it!
Q. Have you discovered anything about your local community that you didn’t realize prior to opening the soup kitchen?
A. I have realized that Sandpoint’s homeless and in-need community is larger than most would think. I wish we had more resources and outreach for our community. I know some of the resources we do have are at capacity, which is unfortunate.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
A. The glory is all God’s! He’s been faithful to provide all of our needs for the soup kitchen. Also, I couldn’t do this without all of our incredible volunteers! I’m so grateful to the people who volunteer their time, homemade meals and their resources!
The Hoot Owl Soup Kitchen is open every Monday, 4 to 7pm, and serves an average of 80 to 150 meals each week! Meals usually include soup, casserole, salad, sandwiches, bread and dessert. And Savannah is truly grateful to her volunteers, which averages five to six each week, who serve meals, wash dishes and visit with their guests. A special—and free—Thanksgiving meal is also prepared and served on Thanksgiving Day, in which the Hoot Owl donates at least half the cost of the Thanksgiving meal with the soup kitchen. The Hoot Owl Café, located at 30784 Highway 200 in Ponderay, is open for breakfast and lunch 5am to 2pm Tuesday through Sunday.