Soup kitchen volunteer recognized for dedication
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 28, 2013 1:46 PM
Anne Marie Johnson stands behind the counter ready to help the next person in line at the Community Soup Kitchen of Goldsboro. Known for her smile and good nature Ms. Johnson was named Volunteer of the Year at the soup kitchen.
Every Tuesday for nearly the last six years, Anne Marie Johnson has gone to the Community Soup Kitchen of Goldsboro, not to receive a meal, but to help serve one. And on Monday, it was that dedication that led soup kitchen Director Doricia Benton to name Mrs. Johnson the 2012 Volunteer of the Year.
"She's a very special friend, volunteer," Ms. Benton said.
Mrs. Johnson explained that after she retired from Wayne Memorial Hospital in 2007 as a registered nurse, she was looking for something into which she could channel her energies -- some way to help people and give back to the community -- when a friend's daughter mentioned the soup kitchen.
"I went one day and it was what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be," Mrs. Johnson said. "The Lord just gave me the love of helping people. Seeing people in need, and knowing how blessed I am, I want to share as much as I can, to let people know that some one cares about them and loves them.
"I just started on Tuesdays, and I really enjoy it."
Ms. Benton said she has seen a change come over Mrs. Johnson.
"She's opened up and given so much," Ms. Benton said. "She told me that she likes it when I work the serving line with them because I greet everybody by name. She said that she wants to get to know everyone by name. She doesn't just come and prep and serve and leave, she goes out on the floor and interacts with people.
"She wants to learn and gain knowledge, and that makes a wonderful volunteer."
Ms. Benton explained that there's no specific criteria that she looks for each year, but rather that she just looks for somebody who's dedicated, who loves coming to help and who has made a difference.
"It's a hard thing because all my volunteers are special, and they all work so hard," she said. "It's just through the course of the year, things that stand out and touch me.
"I wish I could recognize every one of them."
The one thing she does not do, she said, is try to put any sort of quantitative, monetary value on her volunteers' contributions.
"To me, my volunteers are priceless. It's hard to put a per-hour value on the people that cross my path," she said.
And for Mrs. Johnson, Ms. Benton said, putting a monetary value on her contributions would be even harder. Not only does she come to volunteer every week, but she also makes rounds to various restaurants and stores to pick up supplies and food, as well as makes special desserts for the soup kitchen.
Mrs. Johnson explained that sometimes people donate things to the soup kitchen that can be hard to use as they are, such as boxes of raisins, prunes or other dried fruit, cans of frosting and cake mixes. So, she said, what she does is take all of that, go home, find some creative way to mix it all together and bring it back.
"We get some odd stuff sometimes, but you don't want to just throw it away, so you try to find creative ways to use it," she said. "Sweets are dear to my heart. I love baking and bringing in my creations."
And, Ms. Benton added, the other volunteers and those coming for meals love it, too.
"She puts love into whatever she does, and that's beautiful. That's how you share your love with others," she said.
Fortunately for the soup kitchen, Mrs. Johnson, 58, says she has no plans to stop or even slow down her volunteer efforts now. The soup kitchen has become something that is near and dear to her heart.
"I wish we could change the name of it. It's so much more than just soup," she said.