Sara Bowling does her best to manage the street kitchen at The Alley church in Seymour.
There, free meals are offered to the public Monday through Friday, and no one is turned away.
“Ever since I turned my life over to God, I made a pact that if he would stay with me through this journey of staying clean, I would do my best to be obedient and try to do whatever he asked me to do,” the 36-year-old Seymour woman said.
Bowling is a recovering addict and just celebrated five years of being clean June 17. She said the only reason she works at The Alley is because of Jesus, and she wants him to have the glory because without him, she wouldn’t be who she is today.
It was four years ago when Bowling began helping out at The Alley as a volunteer. She said she loves it, and being a part of the ministry has changed her life.
“After I had been volunteering there for about a year, I was asked if I wanted a job in the kitchen,” she said. “I was asked because Joy Sutherland was getting ready to retire.”
Bowling said her husband, Mark, fully supports her working at the street kitchen, even though it doesn’t pay a lot. Mark provides for the family so Sara can keep doing what she’s doing.
Sara has a 4-year-old daughter, Nora Bowling, and a son, Samuel Atwood, who is 12.
“I spent so many years with my addiction and bad behavior, and this gives me a chance to give back to the town that I love and was raised in,” Bowling said. “I am so honored and humbled to be able to give back to Seymour in this way.”
Bowling was nominated to be a Hometown Hero by several local residents who felt she was deserving of the recognition because of her giving nature and the time she devotes to those in need.
One example of Bowling helping others would be last Thanksgiving. While many were cooking food for their families, she was at The Alley to help prepare and serve meals for those in need.
It was the fourth year Bowling had helped organize the event, and she had help from Frances Prentice as they cooked enough food for 200 people. About 40 volunteers were there to help prepare and serve the meals.
Bowling said the event is an important part of the community because it brings people together, and there is no place she would rather be on Thanksgiving.
In January, The Alley served as the intake site for the Cold Night Out Shelter project. Bowling helped prepare and serve food for that, too.
The Alley kitchen provides free hot meals to the community not only on Thanksgiving and for the Cold Night Out Shelter but each week day. They feed anywhere from 50 to 100 people a day, Paige Ingalsbe said.
“Sara serves and cooks meals, cleans the church and is in charge of the volunteers that come in,” Ingalsbe said. “Most importantly, though, she shows love and kindness to each and every person that walks through the door.”
Ingalsbe said she also attended The Alley church. The two women knew each other before but became close friends throughout their journey to recovery.
“I don’t know how Sara does it, but she always has a smile on her face while being in recovery herself,” Ingalsbe said. “She goes out of her way to shed light into a cold, dark world and shows others that recovery is possible.”
Ingalsbe said Bowling does so much for the community, and her sparkly, bubbly, humble personality is what makes her the beautiful person she is.
Susan Tormoehlen lives in Seymour and works at The Alley with Bowling. She said Bowling is the most compassionate person she has ever met.
“She goes above and beyond to make sure those struggling with their life feel loved,” Tormoehlen said. “She takes the time to talk to everyone and prays with them.”
Tormoehlen said Bowling is truly a community hero with the love and patience she gives out on a daily basis to those who walk through The Alley’s doors.
“When someone needs prayers, she instantly meets that need,” she said. “When there are those that are struggling with anything in their life, she tries her hardest to give them relief.”
Jennifer Hopkins of Seymour said Bowling deserves to be a Hometown Hero because she does so much more than coordinate the feeding of hundreds of people a week. Bowling also feeds their souls and Hopkins’ soul.
“Truth be told, no words will be ever be able to describe what she does,” Hopkins said. “The manner she does it or the joy she does it with, she is truly a light.”