11/26/09 — Community Soup Kitchen gets set for Thanksgiving holiday dinners

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Community Soup Kitchen gets set for Thanksgiving holiday dinners

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 26, 2009 7:01 AM

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Tech. Sgt. Nina Anderson and Senior Master Sgt. Ricky Anderson, of the 4th Medical Group at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, help serve meals at the Soup Kitchen.

The Community Soup Kitchen is expecting to serve at least 130 people today, and on Wednesday volunteers were beginning the preparation of a dozen big turkeys that would serve as the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal.

With the approach of the holiday season, the kitchen has seen an increase in the number of people coming in to eat, said Doricia Benton, the director of the facility on West Oak Street.

Over the past week, the number of people eating at the free kitchen has increased by about 25 percent over its usual average of just over a hundred a day.

"For the last week, we've been serving 130-plus (plates) a day," Ms. Benton said as volunteers bustled about the kitchen, with the smell of already roasting turkeys wafting through the room.

Ms. Benton said that although the soup kitchen has everything it needs for the Thanksgiving holiday, she wanted to remind Wayne County residents that the needs of the hungry extend far beyond the holiday season.

"This is 52 weeks out of the year that the need is there," she said. "Just keep us in your hearts and minds throughout the whole year."

With the economy still in distress the need this winter is likely to grow even greater, she added.

"Our numbers, I believe, are going to grow, and we're going to need the help throughout the whole year."

Although the feeling of Thanksgiving was hanging heavy in the air, Ms. Benton pointed out that it was really just another day at the kitchen, which has been helping feed those in need for 29 years.

Cooking coordinator Susan Britt, who works at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, noted that the kitchen not only serves those who stop in, looking for a bite, but that it also provides meals to people who can't make the trip to the kitchen.

A year ago, she said, a woman who had come down from Maryland called and said that her sister's family was in dire need. The two women drove out to see the elderly couple and found them sick, with no electricity and no food.

The sister said she was trying to help them get back on their feet but that her own resources were running out.

The pair packed up food and water and headed out to the mobile home near Dudley.

"She (the sister) was just so grateful," Ms. Benton said, adding that whenever possible, the Soup Kitchen staff is willing to go "outside of the box" to help people, because they realizes not everyone can make it to the kitchen.

"You have to make a judgment call every day. There's certain guidelines that we have to go by every day in our operations, but also the board allows us to run with our heart," Ms. Benton said, referring to the board that oversees the work of the kitchen and its volunteers.

At the kitchen itself, Ms. Benton said that she often gives people  leeway when they come in after the "official" lunch hour, from 11 a.m. until noon. A man on Wednesday showed up late and said it was because he had just finished up an odd job of  painting to earn some money. No problem, said Ms. Benton, as long as there were people there, a plate of hot food would be available.

That kind of service enables the volunteers to feel they've done something for the community, Ms. Britt said.

The feeling of satisfaction is never greater than at Thanksgiving, she said, because of the tradition surrounding the meal and the fact that so many people would do without unless it was for their efforts and the efforts of the people who donate to the facility.

As a family of four left the kitchen of Goldsboro Wednesday afternoon, the mother looked back at Ms. Benton and smiled. They carried boxes of food to take home with them, and seemingly couldn't thank her enough, each one beaming as they walked to their car.

"When we go home, we can sleep nice, because we know we've done all we can for these people," she said.

Donations to help the kitchen can be arranged by calling 731-3939.