From Little River to Pawleys Island, church congregations are feeding the hungry in a variety of soup kitchen-type programs.
A recent addition is in North Myrtle Beach, where the Master's Table at Trinity United Methodist Church started only seven weeks ago after Trinity member Gerry Ferguson saw the need for a noon meal on Wednesdays. The meal is offered from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and has been serving 10 people, plus meals to go. Trinity's director of life ministries, Verna Scruggs, says Ferguson and her committee "found out what others were doing" and started the Wednesday meal, serving three people March 17. Last week, 18 people were fed, Ferguson says, including meals to three people that she delivered.
"We're encouraged" Scruggs says by the numbers and the overwhelming response. So many church members wanted to help that Ferguson started a waiting list. A dozen to 20 volunteers help every week, Scruggs says, and volunteers cooking the meal have not asked for reimbursement for the cost of the food. Some church members eat with the guests. "We have a schedule but people pop their heads in the door and say, 'Can I help today?'" Ferguson says.
One of the other congregation members Ferguson talked to is Karen Elliott, who directs Hope's Kitchen at Ocean Drive Presbyterian Church, only a few blocks away. That church serves a Tuesday evening meal. Hope's Kitchen started in late January 2009 and served "five at the very first one," Elliott recalls. Now, the number varies from 20 to 40, averaging about 30. The doors open at 5:30, and the church van picks up guests at a half dozen designated places. A short devotion service - attendance is not required - is held at 6 p.m. and the meal is served at 6:20 p.m. Elliott has about 40 volunteers, 35 from the ODPC congregation, and she calls on 10 to 12 to help every week. Ferguson continues to volunteer at ODPC. Hope's Closet also provides personal items and clothing. "Tuesday is my favorite day of the week," Elliott says.
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The Trinity meal is also modeled after Shepherd's Table at Little River United Methodist Church. Member Cookie Weber says an average of 10 people eat on Friday evenings. Last week there were eight and "that's eight who would not have had a good meal" without Shepherd's Table. Volunteers from King of Glory Lutheran Church help as has the Rotary Club of Little River. Shepherd's Table started in December and at first also served a Thursday noon meal. For now, Weber says, LRUMC is "focusing on Friday night dinners."
On Monday, 66 people ate at the Bread of Life at Pawleys Island Presbyterian Church. "We set a record," Rick Russ says. Bread of Life started in September serving 21 people. The weekly number of guests grew to the 40s and upward as word got around. Russ is awaiting approval to add a Tuesday noon meal, hopefully in June. Russ also distributes bread donated by Lowe's Food and clothing from the congregation.
Well-established in Pawleys Island is Father Pat's Lunch Kitchen at Precious Blood of Christ Catholic Church. Volunteers from the congregation prepare and serve noon meals on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Ellen Sullivan, parish coordinator, says the lunches started after the first Taste of Pawleys fundraiser in 2007 and now 100 people are served on Wednesdays and 70 to 90 on Thursdays. Saturday breakfast started a year ago and 60 to 70 are served.