By Diane Adame
The sounds of pots and pans clanking erupt throughout a blue house on Turnpike Road as volunteers prepare to feed approximately 150 people every afternoon.
Previously a day care center, this blue house now operates as the new location for The Hoke County Open Door Soup Kitchen. But since its move, the soup kitchen has begun serving much more than hot meals.
“The amount of people that we serve, that has increased tremendously,” said Bishop Al Anderson, founder. “The types of service that we render now, that also has changed because we are now doing intake with people from the SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery) program, which is a
(See SOUP KITCHEN, page 8)
North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness initiative.”
When the soup kitchen first opened its doors in May 2015, it was off to a slow start. Volunteers were distributing approximately 20 meals per day for four months and at the time, the kitchen owned one refrigerator and one deep freezer, according to the Open Door Soup Kitchen website.
Upon hosting its first Thanksgiving dinner and receiving coverage from The News-Journal, the soup kitchen’s serving numbers substantially increased. In 2016, Open Door started delivering meals to the homes of approximately 150 people.
As the soup kitchen’s serving numbers continued to increase, it began to outgrow its prior location, a blue cottage on Oakdale Gin Road.
But after moving into their new location earlier this year, Open Door encountered a few challenges with the house on Turnpike Road.
“The place was in really bad shape,” said Anderson. “This place has come a long way, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Upon moving into the new building, electrical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning repairs were made. But perhaps the most crucial repair was replacing the roof.
“A roof had to be put on the main section, where the multi-purpose area is,” said Anderson. “That was one of the biggest jobs we had, and we had to get it done because there were leaks everywhere.”
Anderson said the soup kitchen was able to get the roof replaced with no charge and has been receiving a lot of assistance through fundraisers.
Additionally, Food Lion has become a sponsor of Open Door by providing the soup kitchen with a $500 gift card every six months.
“The corporate office said they wanted to sponsor us by using us to help meet their initiative, and that is to give back to the community in which they serve,” said Anderson. “We could pick up paper towels, toilet tissue, seasonings, things that you don’t get from the Food Lion distributors when you pick up the food donations.”
Open Door also moved its clothing pantry to the new location. The walls surrounding this area were removed to create a larger space the clothing donations.
Anderson said the space still isn’t big enough because they receive two to three clothing donations per week and the clothes can’t be given away fast enough.
The expansion of the soup kitchen has led to it offering a new set of services, such as office staff assisting with resumes and completing job applications. Open Door has also started offering a summer etiquette and cooking class for children ages eight to 18.
By working with the SOAR program, the soup kitchen is also helping individuals receive their disability or Supplemental Security Income.
Anderson said since the move, the building has become more visible to the community.
“We get people to just walk in and see what’s going on or to see how they can help,” said Anderson. “It’s been a great influx of people.”
In the long-term, Anderson sees the soup kitchen moving into a larger facility with office space to take care of more needs, such as assisting people with bills. He also envisions Open Door becoming a homeless shelter or some form of low-income housing.
“Not only do we want to feed them, we want to make sure they have a roof over their head,” said Anderson. “From my experiences, I’ve been hungry, I’ve been homeless, I have a heart for these people and that’s what drives my passion for it.”
By Diane Adame