Amy Privitt knew that something else was in store for her outside of her comfortable life back in Weatherford, Texas. Something was missing, but she didn’t know what.
“I had felt God calling me for a long time, but until that day I did not realize what the good Lord wanted. I got down on my knees and surrendered my life to Him. I told Him I would go anywhere and do anything for Him,” she said.
Little by little, over the course of four years, she found her answer last fall in starting Cup of Grace, a faith-based non-profit serving free meals in Spirit Lake but also helping anyone in need in the Rathdrum, Athol or Blanchard areas.
Rural communities are picturesque, but their struggles are often hidden. School counselors may help in sending meals home with children who need them, but what about those who are home-schooled or who are elderly? Or, how do you help neighbors who are tucked away in the woods and snow bound for the winter? Enter Cup of Grace.
Privitt felt called to live in Northern Idaho, landing in Spirit Lake. She retired as a teacher and took a job working at Brickel Creek Coffee where she began meeting people in the community. It was there that she had her “a-ha” moment to begin serving a free meal.
“The coffee shop was my platform to meet people, figure things out and spread the word about what I wanted to do. And people kept saying that they wanted to help,” Privitt said recently at a local fundraiser.
A 4am wake-up call
Cup of Grace is just getting started, but it began in the back of Privitt’s mind in 2012, when she still lived in Texas with her husband and two boys. Her strong marriage felt strained. She felt tired of working as a teacher and driving her kids to sports events. Oddly enough, one of her realizations came from watching a reality show about living in Alaska.
“I had an urge to be one of those people. I realized I was tired; tired of the rat race, tired of running around, tired of working so much, tired of chasing kids at sports, tired of the city,” she said.
Although she had the urge to argue and complain about her unhappiness, she kept quiet and prayed for answers. “The more I trusted, the better things got,” she said.
She and her husband, Mark, put their home up for sale and planned to move to the Colorado countryside. They had lived there and thought they would return. But when her husband learned that an employee with his HVAC skill set was retiring from a company in Post Falls, they redirected their search to Northern Idaho.
In 2015, the family packed up and moved to Coeur d’Alene. Privitt resumed teaching but still the feeling that something had to change persisted. When they toured their current home in Spirit Lake; again, she had her “a-ha” moment. Spirit Lake was the place to be; she could retire from teaching and focus on her ministry.
“I began having visions about people coming together as a community and helping each other and feeding people. ... Most people seemed surprised that there was even a need, but I knew that if God was asking me to do this then there must be a need,” Privitt said.
At the urging of a friend, she rented the Spirit Lake Senior Center for two months, not knowing if anyone would come or how she might pay for it out of her coffee-shop earnings. That same day, a friend donated the exact amount she needed without knowing.
“I was truly humbled and in awe because I knew it was God,” she said.
Free weekly meals
Privitt and 15 volunteers hosted their first meal Tuesday, January 3. They had 22 people come. The next week, 55 came, followed by 44. Most recently, the count was 74! Each week, volunteers prepare a themed meal; meals are served, and there is live music.
Privitt’s nowhere near finished with her plans. She’d like to have enough volunteers and resources to offer a free meal every day. She’s also working with Priest River Ministries, an advocacy group for women and children, and helping them get the resources that social services don’t cover.
A place to call home
Cup of Grace is looking for a permanent place to call home in Spirit Lake. Come August, they’ll move temporarily to the old Lutheran Church on Jefferson Street.
“Eventually, I want to have a gathering place with games and food,” Privitt said. The new place would also be a meeting place for Priest River Ministries and the services they provide. For now though, she’s excited at how Cup of Grace is progressing: “I just want to bring people together.”
If you would like to volunteer or donate, please visit CupOfGrace.life, or come and enjoy a free meal with neighbors on any Tuesday at the Spirit Lake Senior Center, 32564 N. 4th Ave., 5 to 6:30pm.