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Soup kitchen continues record-setting pace

Volunteers Monica Guess and Vickie Likens prepare meals for people at the Christian Ministries soup kitchen. The kitchen feeds between 100 and 150 people daily.

Staff Writer
The Lincolnton soup kitchen set a new record last year, keeping its doors open a straight 365 days.
“We didn’t even miss a day for weather or ice storms,” Christian Ministry director Susan Brymer said. She even noted how a volunteer walked on foot in the ice to serve at the kitchen.
Christian Ministry officials hope to achieve similar goals in 2012 by continuing to offer a variety of services to the homeless and other needy residents.
“Our goal is to be open every single day and to help these people however we can,” she said. “We never know how many people are going to come in and eat.”
Brymer said the non-profit organization attempts to prevent homelessness in the area in many ways, particularly by spending money on people rather than “things.” Unlike a number of local thrift shops, Christian Ministry offers donated items free-of-charge, Brymer said.
The nonprofit organization will also pay rent and medical bills for people with financial struggles as well as assist the homeless in looking for shelter, whether it’s temporary or permanent.
“They can feel safe and not feel threatened,” Brymer said.
She noted that the organization is also the only place in town where the needy can receive assistance without first being interviewed.
“We help people get in homes and stay in homes,” Brymer said, “We also do rent deposits and light bills for residents who may have found a home but don’t have all the money needed to pay for bills.”
Brymer said that nearly 4,000 people receive Christian Ministry’s emergency services each year.
The Christian group also works closely with the county’s homeless shelter, Hesed House, to provide day shelter for those needing a place to rest, do laundry or even take a shower.
“We’re dong our best to work alongside Hesed and do something during the day to compliment what they do at night,” Brymer said.
While the facility used to additionally offer beds, they were removed following Hesed’s debut a decade ago.
“Oftentimes, when they (Hesed) let people out in the morning … we’ve found that weather is bad and they have nowhere to go, are tired and need a place to pull themselves together,” Brymer said.
Those who utilize Christian Ministry’s shower facilities are typically homeless individuals who, often times, need somewhere to refresh before a job interview or meeting with Social Services. In addition, the facilities are sometimes used by housing residents who don’t have running water. Organization officials said they also offer clothing to people who enter the facility with “unsalvageable” attire.
The same clients also visit the soup kitchen on a daily basis, Brymer said. “We have half a dozen to a dozen who eat regularly,” she said. Still others come for food — those who even with food boxes and food stamps don’t have enough food in their homes.
“I’ve never seen someone eating in that kitchen who doesn’t need it,” Brymer said.
Christian Ministry delivers food boxes each month for qualified individuals who don’t have enough gas money to drive to the soup kitchen and who live in areas around Pumpkin Center westward. East Lincoln Christian Ministry serves individuals eastward of Pumpkin Center, officials said. Individuals must show an ID and social security card along with proof of income and county residency.
Between 100 and 150 people come hungry for a soup kitchen meal throughout the day, refilling their plates as many times as they want with “no questions asked,” Brymer noted.
“They get a well-balanced, lovingly prepared meal,” she said. “Nobody ever leaves hungry.”
The soup kitchen, founded in the early 1980s, more than a decade after Christian Ministry officially started its operation, was originally just a weekday handout. After leaders witnessed the extent of the area’s hungry, they expanded the kitchen to seven days a week.
Brymer said church and other volunteer groups work as kitchen servers during the weekend since Christian Ministry’s seven employees only operate part-time.
In addition, soup kitchen officials are fearful that the nonprofit’s food pantry could again see a severe decrease in food items. While numerous area churches, businesses and other organizations, including Metrolina Second Harvest Food Bank in Charlotte, continuously contribute canned goods and other items to Christian Ministry, totaling more than a million dollars throughout the year, the pantry reached a great low last fall, Brymer said. As a result, the organization had to shell out $8,000 a month for food.
In addition, with an increase in the number of local people requesting food, Brymer is concerned about how the increase in gas and food prices will ultimately affect the community’s needy residents.
“Many things impact the food supply,” she said.
Brymer did praise local grocery stores, including Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Wal-Mart and Bi-Lo, for their incessant generosity.
Each morning the stores do a “bread run,” handing out leftover bread, meat, produce and sweets to the non-profit.
“They give an unbelievable amount of food,” Brymer said. “We can give residents more than just canned food now.”
Christian Ministry officials recognize that a lot of people in the area are hurting
“We have done many, many things for the homeless population,” Brymer said, “that’s why we started the soup kitchen…We view it as if we’re going to feed Christ everyday.”
The soup kitchen, located at 207 South Poplar Street in Lincolnton, is open 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. daily. Christian Ministry, located at 230 East Water Street in Lincolnton, is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays.

Image courtesy of Ray Gora / Lincoln Times-News

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