12/25/05 — Volunteers, families share holiday dinner

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Volunteers, families share holiday dinner

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on December 25, 2005 2:08 AM

Kevin Gardner did not know exactly how many people he would have for dinner Christmas Eve.

On a regular day, the Community Soup Kitchen, which is located in the back of an historic synagogue at the corner of James and Oak streets, serves anywhere from 50 to 80, the supervisor, cook and counselor said.

Saturday, he was expecting about 70 people from around the area who had nowhere else to go for a home-cooked holiday meal.

He said his heart has been touched many times by the stories he hears from those who come for meals. The regulars, he said, are like family.

One woman even brought him a small gift for Christmas.

"It touched me," he said. "It makes me feel good."

Gardner said those who come for the holidays are grateful for the opportunity to share a little of the Christmas spirit. He and the other volunteers send them home with a warm feeling not just from the food, but from letting them know someone cares.

And the volunteers take away something, too, he said.

"I love it. I love helping people. I get to meet different people every day."

Remembering those who are less fortunate is why Eastern Wayne High School students Steven Henricks and Kenneth Lam spent part of their holiday at the Soup Kitchen.

Members of the National Honor Society, they said they do a lot of community service as part of their club activities.

But Saturday, it was all about the holiday.

"It's Christmas Eve. We wanted to help people," Henricks said.

"I've always wanted to do it. I just didn't have time," Lam said. "And this year, I had the time and was able to."

Carol Parker from the First African Baptist Church in Goldsboro also stopped by Saturday morning with her daughter, Christina, to deliver some canned foods for the pantry.

Her church holds food drives for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The congregation adopted five families this Christmas, fed them and still had some food leftover.

So, she decided to bring it with her when she came to be part of the Christmas dinner. This is her second year.

"This is wonderful," she said. "I really enjoy doing this. It gives you a chance not to feel sorry for yourself."

Members of the Wayne Community College International Students Club members were excited when they learned they would be serving dinner at the soup kitchen this weekend.

They are not new to the process. WCC students and even some staff members serve dinner at the Community Soup Kitchen every fourth Saturday.

This Saturday just happened to fall on Christmas Eve.

Helping out at the soup kitchen every fourth Saturday is what makes the month for the club, adviser Phyllis Patterson said.

"This is our anniversary," she said.

They never know what they are going to do when they arrive. Their duties could include cooking, sweeping the floor, washing dishes, sorting donations, whatever is needed.

Last year, one of the men who came wore a Santa suit.

"It touches your heart," Ms. Patterson said.

Many of those who eat at the soup kitchen linger after dinner to thank the volunteers for what they do.

That is what makes all the work worthwhile, the volunteers say.

"They really do appreciate what they're getting," Gardner said.

There's plenty of food in the pantry around this time of year, but supplies are leaner during the summer.

"Sometimes we go out and buy food," Ms. Patterson said. "One time during a lean time we had lots of tortillas, so we went out and bought pounds and pounds of hamburger meat."

This is the second year the soup kitchen has been operating, with volunteers from all over the community adopting a day to prepare and serve food to the hungry. The kitchen operates every day except Sunday. A calendar details who will be in on which day.

One group of volunteers picks up doughnuts donated by Krispy Kreme and Mickey's Pastry. Another is scheduled to actually work the meal. Several groups from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base have signed up for days, as has St. Mary's Catholic Church.

This weekend, the base chapel donated pies, while Daniels Memorial United Methodist Church donated food for the day's feast.

Gardner said the number of people who come for dinner varies. The month begins slow, with sometimes as few as 47 people.

"The highest I've seen was 140 people," he said. "It was during the summertime."

Wayne Community College public information officer Tara Humphries came in Saturday morning to see what was going on and ended up wearing an apron and cooking.

"I can't imagine a better place to be today," she said. "This is the spirit. And apparently you can't have too many cooks in the kitchen."

Four of the students in the club were hovering over the stove. She joined them.