11/27/08 — A feast to share: Taking care of their neighbors

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A feast to share: Taking care of their neighbors

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 27, 2008 1:46 PM


Anne Marie Johnson, a volunteer at the Community Soup Kitchen in Goldsboro, prepares turkeys for the Thanksgiving dinner. The Soup Kitchen opened for a couple of hours today to offer a hot meal to Wayne County's needy.


Jamie McFaden and Monique Shehadah chop sweet potatoes for the Community Soup Kitchen feast.

Some have nothing -- not even a home.

Others have tables, but not enough money to put food on them this Thanksgiving.

Each of the hundred-plus expected to dine at the Community Soup Kitchen today has a story to tell, one that typically involves loss of some kind -- a job, a loved one, perhaps even hope.

But each will find a steady supply of love and kindness this holiday -- if only for a few hours.

Soup Kitchen volunteers have stayed busy this week preparing 200 Thanksgiving meals, enough food, they say, to feed the 100 people expected to dine in today. Each will also get a take-out meal for dinner.

Anticipation of such a high number of hungry residents for the meal follows a trend that Kitchen Cabinet Chairman Andrea Heekin has kept an eye on since last Thanksgiving.

The kitchen has seen an average of 99 meals served each day this October, a 38-percent increase from last year.

And last year, only 81 people ate at Thanksgiving dinner at the kitchen, compared to the 100 or so who are expected to come in and out today.

"Things are tough all over. Resources are low to none. They need help with basic needs, and new people come every day," Ms. Heekin said. "They are always looking for odd jobs to make ends meet. The economy is pulling individuals in who have never needed assistance before."

And the number would likely be higher if not for the efforts of other service-oriented groups.

Local churches, clubs and other organizations have been packing and delivering full Thanksgiving meals to families all week.

Like Dudley's Hispanic Community Development Center or the local Retiree Military Club, who, combined, gave 100 families all the turkey, stuffing and vegetables they will need today.

But officials from these groups would tell you that what makes all this giving possible is the community.

Donations of money, time and materials are paramount to the success of these types of operations.

And in that sense, Wayne County has been relatively lucky, said Soup Kitchen director Doricia Benton.

Her organization has been flooded with volunteers.

But Ms. Heekin warns that as the generosity grows, so, too, does the need.

And she takes pride in knowing that today, the soup kitchen is doing its part to meet it.

As it does every day.

"For people who are homeless, we are the one place that they can count on being welcomed without question, providing nourishment and encouragement during these tough economic times," Ms. Heekin said.

Donald Shields is one of those people. A homeless veteran, he is not only thankful for the help he receives, but for the simple fact that he is surviving.

"I'm thankful to be alive," Shields said. "Seventeen months ago, I was hit by a truck while riding my bicycle on Sheridan Forest Road at the edge of dark road. I was in a coma for a week. I don't remember anything but the screeching of the brakes, because the guy tried to slow down."

Today he gets a chance to have a good, hot meal.

"If it wasn't for the (Community) Soup Kitchen and food stamps, I would not survive," he said.

For more information on the Community Soup Kitchen or to volunteer your food, money or time, see its Web site at www.communitysoupkitchen.org.