By Patti Samar
For six years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Alice Rieves owned a restaurant in St. Clair called, appropriately, “Alice’s Restaurant.”
After retiring as the executive director of the Mid City Nutrition Program in 2016, Rieves has once again joined the organization and has been named interim executive director of Mid City Nutrition, as the organization moves forward with its plans to construct a new home for its soup kitchen on the south side of Port Huron.
Aptly, the new building could also be called “Alice’s Restaurant” because if anyone knows the recipe for success when working with donors and the population that Mid City Nutrition serves, it is Rieves.
After a long-term career in the food service industry that saw her owning, managing and waitressing, Rieves was named the first paid director at Mid City Nutrition in 1993.
“I was working at Manis’s Restaurant and I remember looking out the window at all of these lost people,” she said. “I saw the sadness and despair in their faces.”
She began volunteering at the Mid City Nutrition soup kitchen several days a week, which eventually led to her employment there.
“We had no money,” she said of her early days there. “The church (where the soup kitchen is located) had never, ever charged rent, and a few times, we had to borrow money from the church.
“We prayed and said, ‘If God wants this to continue, he will show us the way.”
Apparently God did, indeed, want the soup kitchen to continue.
“I got a call from a woman who said, ‘I heard you don’t have any money…’” Rieves went to meet with the woman, who offered a donation. She was shocked when she was handed a check for $20,000.
“Money just started to come in the door,” Rieves said. “I said, ‘I guess God wants us here, so we’re going to continue.’”
A native of Georgia, Rieves moved around to several different states while she was growing up, and eventually landed in Michigan in the late 1970s. She raised her children in St. Clair County and has called this community home ever since.
“I think that in life, God has a plan, and that was His plan to get me here to do what I’m doing, working with the soup kitchen.”
After her retirement in 2016, Rieves worked part time for a while, but soon felt the call back to Mid City Nutrition.
“I didn’t realize how much I missed my peeps and the whole organization,” she said. “It’s my passion. It’s something that I strongly believe in.
“Hunger is a basic need, and we have all experienced hunger to a certain degree…that little growling in our bellies that says ‘I need food.’
“But there’s more to being hungry than that growling. People are important. There’s spiritual hunger, there’s emotional and mental hunger.
“If you see each one of those people at the soup kitchen as a person, then that makes a difference. Give them a firm handshake and look them in the eye. That gives them validation.”
Rieves is looking forward to working with the community, moving forward with raising funds and constructing the new building.
“We can get that building built and add some stability to the organization,” she said. “I’ve worked very hard to be a good fiduciary steward of the donor money.
“There are a lot of people in this community who care. There is not another community in the state that is as giving as St. Clair County.”
Please consider a donation to: Mid City Nutrition Program