Beth Bednar peeled potatoes and cooked chicken this week in preparation for Monday's soup sale at the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling, but she admitted to having some sadness as she prepared her last pots of soup in the kitchen.
Bednar, who has worked as cook at the soup kitchen for 12 years, will leave the kitchen at the end of the month to take another job in the health care industry. Assisting Bednar in preparing the soup for Monday's sale was Laura Carnahan, who will assume the duties as cook upon Bednar's departure.
Each weekday, as many as 250 meals are served up at the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling - not including breakfast meals and the dinners on Wednesday nights for children, according to Bednar.
Photo by Joselyn King\Beth Bednar, left, cook at the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling, passes her ladle on to the kitchen’s new cook, Laura Carnahan.
"The cooking came easy," she said. "It just fell into place. ... I love the staff, the volunteers and the patrons here. I will miss them all."
Bednar came to work at the soup kitchen in February 2002 after seeing an advertisement in the newspaper for the position. A friend volunteered at the kitchen, and encouraged her to apply.
Bednar said she and executive director Becky Shilling-Rodocker immediately struck up a rapport after they discovered their birthdays were only one day apart, and both their mothers were named Vivien.
But Bednar said her greatest challenge in the job was overcoming her innate shyness, and learning to walk up and speak with those at the kitchen.
"I learned to get to know the patrons, and don't be shy," she said. "They can teach you so much. It's been the best learning experience - and not just with the kitchen, but with the people. I've learned not to judge them, and to look beyond what I see. It has been a fun job."
Rodocker wished Bednar well in the future.
"She has been an instrumental part of the success of the soup kitchen," she said. "She has been a dear friend to so many, and we hope we've made a friend for life. We'll miss her."
New cook Carnahan said she is a long-time friend of Rodocker's who has been active with the Triadelphia Volunteer Fire Department. She has learned much about food preparation from her mother, Shirley, who was a cook at Wheeling Park High School.