Volunteer Efforts On MLK Holiday Highlight Needs At Local Soup Kitchen
BY SARAH R. GREGORY
A small group of volunteers gathered at Tabernacle Mission Soup Kitchen Monday to lend a hand in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Every third Monday in January is known as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On that day, many individuals and organizations nationwide honor the slain minister and civil rights leader by rising to King's challenge to provide service to others.
At Tabernacle Mission on Monday, volunteers spent hours cleaning and organizing Greeneville and Greene County's only dedicated soup kitchen.
Located in the lower level of Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, at 715 Wesley Ave., the soup kitchen provides hot meals to 75-100 people each week.
Gene Maddox, president of the George Clem Multicultural Association, Soup Kitchen Advisory Committee member and elder at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, said volunteers were working Monday on a "general clean up" of the facility.
In addition to volunteers from Tabernacle Presbyterian, members of St. James Episcopal Church and Brainard Chapel Seventh-day Adventist Church joined in the effort.
Some employees from Casper's Body Shop also spent the day cleaning in the soup kitchen's dining room, pantry and food preparation areas.
Even though the kitchen serves 300-400 meals each month, Maddox said the need for such a service in the community is greater.
Members of the Soup Kitchen Advisory Committee hope to begin fundraising to expand operations and hire official part-time staff members to ensure the kitchen opens consistently, Maddox said.
Being staffed entirely by volunteers has its challenges. Maddox said occasionally the service has been interrupted due to lack of available volunteers.
"We would love to do more, but we are very limited," he said.
Presently, the soup kitchen is open only once per week: Wednesdays, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Maddox said members of the soup kitchen's advisory committee hope to begin reaching out to other area churches, organizations and businesses for pledges of support to expand operations.
In the future, he said, organizers hope to open the kitchen an additional day each week.
Maddox, a member of the finance committee for the soup kitchen, said he estimated the group would need pledges totaling $6,000 or more to hire two dedicated staffers.
That amount would provide for a part-time cook and a part-time coordinator to ensure consistent operations and uninterrupted service.
Each week it takes eight or nine people to make the kitchen operate efficiently -- six to serve those in need of a hot meal, and three others to prepare, according to Maddox.
A great deal of preparation takes place every Tuesday.
The kitchen receives a great deal of support from other churches, such as donations of food supplies, paper product supplies and volunteers.
Additional in-kind and monetary donations, as well as volunteers, however, are always needed.
Anyone interested in helping at Tabernacle Mission Soup Kitchen can contact Tusculum College's Center for Civic Advancement, which assists with volunteer coordination.