12/05/17 — Food for the hungry

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Food for the hungry

By Joey Pitchford
Published in News on December 5, 2017 5:50 AM

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Mike Spruill enjoys a meal of barbecue, potatoes, green beans and vegetable soup Monday at the Community Soup Kitchen of Goldsboro. The soup kitchen relies on donations and volunteers to help feed those like Spruill who need assistance.

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Volunteer Bobby Dozier hands a plate of food to a man Monday. Dozier is an independent volunteer who has been giving his time once a week for 10 years.

The Goldsboro Community Soup Kitchen at 112 W. Oak St. is handling the holidays just like any other time of year -- by providing a hot meal to those in need, regardless of the circumstances which brought them through the doors.

Doricia Benton, director of the soup kitchen, said that the number of people coming to the soup kitchen each day fluctuates, and that the holiday season does not necessarily mean those numbers will increase. Cold weather does tend to bring more people to the soup kitchen, however, so making sure the establishment is well-stocked is as important as ever.

Kitchen volunteers spend the time from 8:30 to 11 a.m. getting the kitchen ready. Then come the patrons for the day, whom Benton calls her friends.

"I think if you call them clients, that's not personal. How do you connect with people if they aren't your friends?" she said. "It's more of a relationship than that. It's not just 'here's your meal, now go.' I want them to feel comfortable."

People from all walks of life come to the soup kitchen every day, Benton said. Some may be frequent visitors, while others could just be down on their luck momentarily and in need of a helping hand. The reason for their visit does not matter, Benton said, only that they are made to feel welcome.

The holidays have already been busy. The soup kitchen served 128 people on Thanksgiving, and Benton said she expects the kitchen to serve thousands more meals before the end of the year.

"You can see right now, we've served about 38,000 meals by this point," she said, pointing to a sheet of paper showing meals numbers for each month in 2017. "I estimate we'll have served around 43,000 by the time the year is over."

The soup kitchen runs on the efforts of volunteers and the generosity of community donors. Benton said she has been "blessed" when it comes to volunteers, with the kitchen booked through May and on Thanksgiving Day next year. Donations always help, and Benton said she will accept anything that the people of Goldsboro are willing to give.

"Food, paper products, anything like that. I don't want to say one particular kind of food, because anything we get we will make use of," she said. "I want people to remember that this is not just a holiday need, it is an every day need."

The kitchen served its millionth meal in March, and looks to be going strong still. Benton thanked the community for its continued support.

"Those million meals, that's the food, but also the paper products, the work to put that food on plates, and the million people eating that food," she said. "It really says a lot for Wayne County that the people have supported us in being able to do that."