01/06/18 — Warm meals, warm hearts

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Warm meals, warm hearts

By Ethan Smith
Published in News on January 6, 2018 5:56 PM

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Kamesha Johnson puts buttered toast into a basket Saturday as volunteers help prepare the meal at the Community Soup Kitchen of Goldsboro. The soup kitchen was closed Thursday due to the weather, but reopened Friday to serve to-go meals.

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Bobby Forrest, a volunteer from Saulston United Methodist Church, stirs a pot of vegetable soup Saturday morning at the Community Soup Kitchen of Goldsboro.

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Joe, 17, and Nathan, 12, Rasmussen make ham sandwiches on Friday at the Community Soup Kitchen of Goldsboro. Their family volunteers together two to three times a month. Despite road conditions the soup kitchen was able to serve 85 people Friday.



Doricia Benton asks her friend at the soup kitchen where her baby is.

"At home," the friend replies.

Benton walks over to another friend and chats with them, making sure they have everything they need.

With snow still on the ground Saturday from an overnight storm Wednesday, people bundled in coats and hats and scarves made their way into the Community Soup Kitchen at 112 W. Oak St. for a warm meal, a warm smile and a reprieve from the elements.

It doesn't matter where they came from.

They are all Benton's friends.

As director of the Community Soup Kitchen, she is often there for her friends when nobody else is.

"It's not just for the time we serve lunch," Benton said.

She recalls one time a man called her at 10:30 p.m.

He was cold, tired and scared.

It was raining, and the man didn't have anybody else to turn to.

So Benton talked to him. In that moment, the man wasn't so alone anymore.

He eventually tucked down into a dugout, and he conversed with Benton until he was ready to close his eyes and go to sleep for the night.

It's what a friend would do.

"It's not just No. 72 eating out there," Benton said. "They have a name. They're human beings just like us. To judge them is wrong, to put a label on them is wrong."

Volunteers from Saulston United Methodist Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the community all helped prepare the food for Saturday's meal.

There was warm soup, bread, chicken cooked with peppers and more to help warm up those in need of a meal, fellowship or just a shoulder to lean on.

The scents mixed together in the air to create an unmistakable aroma -- the smell of love for fellow human beings.

It was a much needed service in one of the most severe cold snaps Goldsboro has seen in a long time.

With a high of less than freezing and lows predicted to reach 7 degrees -- 2 degrees with a wind chill -- on Saturday, the warm meal and fellowship provided a necessary relief for many who might not otherwise have gotten it.

And the volunteers at the soup kitchen were more than happy to help.

Kamesha Johnson, a former teacher at Dillard Middle School, said she has been volunteering every weekend since about September.

She now teaches in Raleigh, but still lives in Goldsboro.

Sometimes, she sees her former students walk through the door.

"It's rewarding to see students and know they are staying healthy and getting a meal," Johnson said.

Johnson said she has been coming off and on for about a year, but the sense of connection she developed with the community is what made her begin coming and volunteering every weekend.

The soup kitchen served 67 people on Wednesday before the storm hit, and had to close Thursday due to the havoc wreaked by the wintry mix.

On Friday, they served 85 people, and were prepared for at least 150 people on Saturday.

In total, the soup kitchen served 41,646 people in 2017.

Benton credits the soup kitchen's ability to operate to the community's willingness to help, as they operate solely on donations.

"The community says every day to open up the door," Benton said. "We had our first day on Dec. 5, 1980, and the community has said to open up the doors for 37 years now."