Siouxland Stories: Soup Kitchen serves up smiles with handcrafted teddy bears

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — The Siouxland Soup Kitchen helps feed thousands of people every year, but a woman working there is giving guests more than just a hot meal.

She’s feeding souls, one teddy bear at a time.

“Our main purpose here is to feed people. But if we can do a little bit extra to put a smile on their face, why not,” a question Lyn Armentrout poses.

Armentrout is a woman of service throughout most of her adult life. She’s a retired military veteran and now serves as the director of the Siouxland Soup Kitchen, where she’s dishing out more than just a hot meal.

“When you give them to the kids and they’re smiling and they ask you for a second one, then you know they really like it, and it just gives you a good feeling.”

The teddy bears are handcrafted by Armentrout’s mother, Sherry Sherman.

“My mom started making these teddy bears back in 2008 when she was volunteering at a women’s shelter. She thought the kids would be happy or get a little bit of happiness getting a teddy bear, so it’s been going since then.”

Even though it’s a labor-intensive task, she isn’t slowing down.

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“It takes her about 4 or 5 hours to make one, so she turns about 4 to 5 a week. So we estimate that she’s somewhere around 4,000 teddy bears so far, that she’s given out and donated to all the states. We’ve made sure she’s mailed some to every state in the U.S.”

As for Lyn, she’s found her passion lies in serving her community, even after serving in the Air Force.

“So after I retired from active duty, I just needed somewhere to give back to my community. I retired and came back to Sioux City, and I needed a purpose. So I walked in off the street and said, ‘Can I help?’ and they let me help here, and it was a couple hours a day. That turned into 3 or 4 days a week, and that turned into 4 or 5 days a week.”

While teddy bears are on the menu daily, the main mission is to feed anyone that’s hungry, judgement-free and free of charge.

“We average around 100 meals per night, and that’s Monday through Friday. Upwards of 3-to-4,000 a month. Most of the food is donated. We survive solely on donations from the community, it’s all community, we have a very giving community.”

A community she said she’s grateful to be a part of, one bear and one meal at a time.

“If they come here and they get a teddy bear and it makes their children happy, that’s a bonus. And we love doing it.”

If anyone is ever interested in donating or volunteering, Armentrout said they are always looking for helping hands.

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