04/01/08 — Number of meals increasing at Community Soup Kitchen

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Number of meals increasing at Community Soup Kitchen

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 1, 2008 1:45 PM

Recent economic concerns are bringing more people to the Community Soup Kitchen, volunteers learned Monday.

Community Soup Kitchen director Dorecia Benton told the organization's board of directors during its annual meeting that as many as 50 or 60 more people are coming to eat each day. It's hard to say why, because she asks no questions, Ms. Benton said, adding that she has also seen some former guests whose money situation had stabilized returning for meals.

But despite the new demand, Ms. Benton said community support is still keeping up with the need. Donations are keeping the kitchen in food, but the director added that there is an emergency plan in place, just in case demand overtakes contributions.

"We're always prepared. We can always make a peanut butter sandwich," she said.

But, so far, Ms. Benton said, she has not had to resort to a sandwich to feed a guest.

Food and resources come in the door unexpectedly all the time.

And once in a while, luck also plays a factor, Ms. Benton said.

On Saturday, the lights went out in downtown Goldsboro. Without electricity to run the kitchen, the crew was preparing to put together tuna fish sandwiches for hungry visitors. And just in time, around 10 a.m., the lights came back on, and the 120 guests who came had something more substantial to eat.

The Soup Kitchen has come a long way since the day about five church members at St. Stephens Episcopal opened a can of Spam and sent out for cheeseburgers, said Andrea Heekin, the outgoing president and new chairman of the board.

"In today's world, we're finding more and more people need us," she said.

But community support is keeping in step, especially since the organization started holding a chili cook-off to raise money. Last year, the event raised $14,000, and the Soup Kitchen was able to buy a new stove.

"Specific people gave graciously to that cause, and Wayne Electric came and installed it free," Mrs. Heekin said.

The board is planning its second annual cook-off for the afternoon of Oct. 4 at the Center Street Jam parking lot. This year, a 5K walk and run will be added. Organizers are hoping to double the funds raised.

The board elected Greg O'Donoghue as its new president, Chris Garrison as the new vice president, Mike Nault as secretary and David Weil as treasurer.

The Soup Kitchen served about 19,000 meals last year. The year before, that number was 23,000. But although the numbers went down overall, Mrs. Benton said the average is now about 50 more than the usual 70 or so they usually serve each day.

"It's sad in a way, but we're glad we have the doors open to take care of these clients," she said.