02/11/18 — Slices for the hungry

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Slices for the hungry

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 11, 2018 3:05 AM


Amanda Kear and Mike Beckman unload the Big Jim's delivery car Friday at the Community Soup Kitchen of Goldsboro. Big Jim's donated 10 pizzas to the soup kitchen for Slice Out Hunger, a campaign organized on National Pizza Day to help hunger relief organizations.

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Mike Beckman holds a slice of sausage pizza while serving at the soup kitchen.

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A recently constructed shelter over the ramp and stairs of the Community Soup Kitchen should provide cover for when it rains and shade for the hot summer months while people wait for food to be served.

In honor of National Pizza Day on Friday, Big Jim's Pizza celebrated with a special delivery -- 10 large pizzas to the Community Soup Kitchen.

Part of an effort called "Slice Out Hunger," pizzerias around the nation were asked to partner with local soup kitchens for a massive pizza donation campaign.

Amanda Kear, promotions coordinator for Big Jim's, said when the Goldsboro restaurant was contacted, there was no hesitation about participating.

"We were like, absolutely, because we love doing things for our community," she said.

Her general manager, Michael Beckman, was equally pleased about the opportunity.

"I said, 'Wow, we have got to jump all over this,'" he said as he stacked the delivered boxes for the lunchtime assembly line. "We're all excited to be part of it."

The occasion was even more meaningful since his business had its own setback due to the hurricane and flooding over a year ago.

"We had been open only four months," he explained, forcing its closure for nearly nine months, "from October through August, when we reopened. Everybody lost their jobs, because they had to go somewhere.

"We did keep some of my management team. We joined the Chamber, we're going to do a grand opening but are just trying to keep the word out there."

Doricia Benton, director of the Soup Kitchen, said she received a call about a month ago from a representative about the pizza day delivery planned for Feb. 9.

"They said that they were reaching out to local pizza restaurants and we were selected to get the pizzas," she said. "I think it's wonderful."

The Soup Kitchen serves an average of 150 clients a day -- six days a week, 52 weeks a year, Benton said.

In addition to the delicacy -- which came in a choice of cheese, sausage, beef or pepperoni -- the Soup Kitchen offered up spaghetti, salad, soup and dessert.

Kear and Beckman stuck around to help serve, along with the volunteers that day from TEACH homeschool group.

"I'm very blessed with my volunteer base," said Benton, who is coming up on 25 years in the role. "I have loved every minute of every day.

"I tell my volunteers, today it's about our friends -- you take care of them. Volunteers are definitely a backbone to make every day complete but it's for them (beneficiaries of the Soup Kitchen)."

As the minutes ticked down to 11 a.m., serving time, she looked up at the row of volunteers lined up at their respective stations, smiling at what was before her.

It may not seem like something to marvel at, but she knows that the task would be so much more monumental without caring people stepping up to help out.

"It always works out," she said, quietly. "It always does. It's meant to be, every day, and it always works out."

With that, she asked for everyone's attention, as they did the requisite last step of having someone say the grace before opening the door to its patrons.

Andy Stovall, a pastor at The Bridge Church, led the blessing.

A regular volunteer, his wife is on the TEACH board and their church also sends volunteers every Sunday -- to fire up a grill and prepare hot dogs for the midday meal.

When the front doors opened, a stream of patrons lined up along the walls of the dining hall.

Benton took it all in. Even though it's a daily sight, she recognizes just how much greatness can be found in the ordinary.

"Isn't it beautiful? It's a beautiful family. They're like my second family," she said, before quickly correcting herself. "No, they are my second family.

"Even when everything shuts down in the city -- hurricanes, snow -- and businesses and schools are closed, you turn this corner and it's like sunshine because we're open. Every time."

She takes pride in the surroundings within the former church on Oak Street.

Maybe it's been OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), she says with a laugh, but she enjoys making sure all the tables and chairs are neatly lined up, vases of colorful flowers on each table.

One aesthetic addition recently was an awning, providing a cover at the entrance for patrons while they wait.

"Two weeks ago," Benton said, it came the result of a grant she received. "I wanted it to be inviting and warm, because for that hour it's home for (residents).

"(Grants are) how I got the floor and other particular things, to upgrade it because you have to keep things up to keep it going."

Besides, she said, if she and her staff place value on something, maybe those who come through their doors will likewise feel that they are valued, she said.

Several enjoying the pizza meal had no problem gushing about the importance of the Soup Kitchen in their neighborhood.

Louise Leftdwrige said she has been coming there for years.

"It's good for people that don't have a place to stay, the homeless," she said.

"I think it's a great place," said Nedra Cox. "It helps the community, people that can't really afford to feed themselves. So this is a way at least for them to have one meal a day.

"And I think Doricia's a very nice person, putting herself out there like that."

Debra Raynor and her husband of 32 years, Fletcher Raynor, also gave high marks to the contributions the Soup Kitchen has made.

"It's a blessing -- it saves lives and it keeps down crime," Fletcher said.

"I give this place an 'A,' for doing an excellent job," his wife said.

Not only does it save lives, but it saves hunger, she added.

"It's definitely a blessing in this county," Fletcher said. "This is heaven on this side of Earth."

Including the Soup Kitchen was a great way to top off the celebration of National Pizza Day, Benton said.

"It's like slices of love," she said with a smile.