Soup Kitchen ensuring that the hungry are fed
By Becky Barclay
Published in News on December 18, 2013 1:46 PM
Community Soup Kitchen volunteer Leigh Rogers adds bread and pastries to a plate for a diner at the soup kitchen Thursday.
The Community Soup Kitchen served a record-breaking number of Thanksgiving meals last month and is preparing to serve even more on Christmas Day.
Director Doricia Benton said the daily numbers are up between 40 and 50 meals. The numbers started rising back during the summer.
She said not all of the people who eat at the Soup Kitchen are homeless. Some of them have been having trouble with their food stamps, sometimes going without them for two or three months. The lack of jobs and bad economy have others going to the soup kitchen.
"Each day is different," Mrs. Benton said. "The food is different, the people are different, the volunteers are different. That's what makes it exciting at the soup kitchen. I never know what someone's going to approach me with as far as their need.
"Each day you have to run with your heart to do what's best for the people who cross our path here."
She said the soup kitchen is blessed with volunteers who go above and beyond, blessed with contributors who keep the lights on and water running and donors who bring food and supplies.
During her 19 years at the soup kitchen, Mrs. Benton has seen so much pain and hurt on the faces of those who have come through the doors.
Sometimes it gets to her.
Like the day a 15-year-old boy, who had been to the soup kitchen many times, asked to talk to Mrs. Benton.
"He was coming in for meals here and he always had his head down," she said. "I'd talk to him and just say, 'Hey.' This particular day, he wanted to talk. He told me his mother would always tell him he was a mistake. He was telling me about it and how hurtful it was."
That afternoon when Mrs. Benton picked up her 12-year-old son from school, she broke down in the car, and told her son why she was crying.
"He said he was glad I was crying," she said. "He said because when you stop crying, you stop caring. Then I started crying more. It was such a powerful moment."
But people get more than just a hot, nutritious meal at the soup kitchen, they also get help with disability applications or other paperwork, they can pick out clothing from the Angel Closet, they can get their mail there and so much more.
And if it's something the staff at the soup kitchen can't help them with, they are given community resources where they can get help.
More and more people are coming in for a meal. And more and more of them are young families, Mrs. Benton said. She's seeing more senior citizens coming in, too, and some are having to choose between their medicines and food.
Mrs. Benton hopes that, just for a few minutes on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, they can leave their troubles outside and enjoy the holidays at the soup kitchen.
During the meal on Christmas Eve, the children will receive a stocking filled with candies, toboggans, gloves and other little gifts. They will also get a present, courtesy of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle group.
For the Christmas Day meal, those at the soup kitchen will be served turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams and greens.
"It would be nice to get some desserts in like pies or cookies," Mrs. Benton said. She welcomes anyone who would like to make pies or cookies to drop them off for the Christmas Day meal.
"When my friends come here, they light up," she said. "They're happy, and sometimes they get a little rowdy and cut up. But that's better than being upset and mad. I want this to be a haven for them. They're so thankful for the meal they get here. And that warms your heart -- a lot."