SEC Communication Department
The work that Southeastern Conference officials and staff perform is important, but it is not always noticed or appreciated. A couple from the Zion Hill Church in Hawthorne, Fla., decided to show their appreciation in a tangible way when they started “Soup Day.” Almost every week, Eileen and Raymond Pilliner bring a meal of vegan soup and cornbread to serve the workers at the Southeastern Conference Office in Mt. Dora, Fla.
The Pilliners started the soup ministry about seven years ago when they recognized the challenge for workers at the Conference Office to get food in the area. “We are mindful that the Conference Office is not in a place where there are many restaurants,” said Eileen Pilliner, “so the staff may not have many options for getting a meal if they arrive at the workplace without breakfast or a packed lunch.” Because they live so close to the office, the Pilliners decided they would bring good food to the workers there. At first they ambitiously crafted a three-course meal, but they soon realized that it was taking more time than they had to prepare. Eventually, they settled on soup and cornbread as something easy for them to prepare and which would suffice for the staff.
When asked about receiving any reward for their service, Eileen Pilliner said that it was not necessary in comparison to the satisfaction they feel from helping those who have helped them. “We do it because we find pleasure and purpose in doing it,” she said, “and because my husband and I are thankful for the times when the church members fed our children and me when we used to spend long hours at the schools where I once worked.
Initially, she was engaged in research in edible oils and in medicine. Convinced, however, that her interest was in the service field, she later switched from the sciences to work in education. For eight years, she served as an educator in the Northeastern Conference at Hanson Place Adventist School in Brooklyn, N.Y., and for 16 years in Southeastern Conference at Shiloh SDA School in Ocala, Fla., Marion County.
She earned her doctorate in education from Andrews University, and has used her skills not only to teach children, but also as the coordinator of adult education for 14 years in the Marion County Public School district. Reflecting on her time as an educator, Pilliner said, “Many mornings I had to rush out to get the children to school, and barely had time to prepare lunch or eat breakfast.” Identifying a shared experience for those doing God’s work was a part of her inspiration for starting the Soup Day idea.
Her husband thought giving back to the office workers was a great idea, and he was delighted to assist with meal preparation. Raymond Pilliner has been her right-hand man, supporting her in the kitchen and at home by running errands to the grocery store or cooking and cleaning up afterward. The two have been married for 52 years, and love doing this ministry as a team. “Ministry gives us purpose, makes us happy; and we love the staff,” they said.
From what the couple shared, it was evident that they have a great love for the Southeastern Conference and the difference it has made in their lives. Eileen Pilliner said, “What you do from day to day is very important in moving our conference forward …. It makes us happy that taking a meal there when we can means something to you.” The Pilliners have been considering delivering the meals more often, and have been discussing the need to recruit help from friends to ensure the soup keeps going to the Conference even when they are not available. Eileen Pilliner said, “Knowing the difference we are making, makes us want to encourage others who can get on board and help us energize you to better get through at least one day — Soup Day!”
The faculty and staff are very appreciative of this kind gesture from the Pilliners. In the same way, they make the workers feel loved and appreciated, the Conference acknowledges the work that this couple is doing to be a blessing to others.
Southeastern | July 2022