From humble beginnings in the basement at First United Methodist Church on the square to a new donated, building on South Cannon Boulevard, Shelbyville Community Soup Kitchen has come a long way. But volunteers like Kay Bartley say with most certainty that the mission needs to continue.
With food and gas prices having soared this year, no doubt more people are going to be in need of meals in the coming year. But Bartley notes thanks to many volunteers, they’re able to feed twice a week on Tuesdays and now Thursdays from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., at the new center.
This is the first time since its inception a few years ago that the soup kitchen has been able to serve twice a week. Bartley said largely, the additional hours at the soup kitchen is a result of community support. It takes money and volunteers to run such a mission.
“We have been blessed,” said the volunteer.
Bartley said they have a long list of volunteers willing to cook and serve meals. “Robert [Martin], our soup kitchen manager, has fallen from the heavens into our laps. He knows food. He knows restaurants. He knows people. He knows organizations. He knows the Christian community.”
She said a chance meeting at Koffee Beanz where Martin was working at the time became a blessing for SCSK. He’s now organizing volunteer lists and menus. “He’s “serving with his whole heart,” she said.
The board had described the person they needed. They didn’t know when they prayed who that would be. The rest was a gift from God, as in walked Robert Martin.
Another gift, she advises, is of course the new building, which is right down from the previous Save-A-Lot building on South Cannon Boulevard. Though the pandemic dictated somewhat that meals were to be served via drive through, dine in is now open.
Bartley, who’s been with the group from the get-go, said it was time the ministry move out on its on from the church, which so graciously supplied space until COVID-19.
“We needed to be a separate entity; we just didn’t have the ability to be.”
She said when the Save-A-Lot building was freely deeded to them, the goal was to rehab the building. However, they soon discovered it was going to take $1 million to do that-money they didn’t have in the bank.
She adds, “God had a plan. We could feed drive by during COVID. How could we have done that, otherwise?”
It served them, she said, when people had to come to them for food. She said this community has just gifted so much to SCSK. In fact, the former building is being used by another local ministry for storage, which is still a help to SCSK.
The inaugural opening
In June, the inaugural opening was held for the new SCSK facility. Since, volunteers and Martin are serving up at least 110-120 meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The soup kitchen still offers boxed foods with fresh bread. There are homeless bags available-even showering opportunities for those in need.
“We are looking at adding a third feeding day,” Bartley said with much enthusiasm. She said she hopes that comes to fruition in the fall.
She adds that those needing meals may ask for seconds. “We don’t want a lot of carry outs,” she said, explaining there’s more ministry when individuals and families have a sit down meal at the center. She said this creates some great prayer opportunities.
In the works is a monthly Sunday dinner, which will actually be prepared by volunteers and Martin for the general public after church. Reservations are going to be required.
“We know we have good cooks . . . food. We’re going to offer meals for the public.”
It’s still up in the air whether the meals will be per donation or SCSK will charge. “Everything we earn will go straight into feeding people.”
“We’re excited about that. Board members will be the servers. Robert and some of the board will also cook. We will do whatever.”
Looking into the future
Bartley said she’s overwhelmed with the amount of youth currently serving the soup kitchen. When speaking of volunteers, She also praises Rebecca Baker who managed the drive by food ministry during COVID-19. By choice, she’s now helping out SCSK in other ways.
Rebecca and others, she said, have paved the way for a future for many families in need. No matter what walk of life those in need are coming from, they’re served, said Bartley.
There are a lot of other dreams within the SCSK, Bartley added Many will be announced, if they come to fruition, in the future.
“This excites me. This has been on my to-do list for soup kitchen for probably 3 years or more. It is to start networking, because there are many agencies that can help this population. And it’s not just homeless, it’s the at-risk population . . . marginalized folks. And I knew when I started just digging this out, over months, that there were many agencies that needed to start talking to one another, because we help each other that way. We provide better services. People come to us with things we can’t provide. But we can say, ‘I know who can help you.’”
Bartley said she believed that she needed to poll this community. “So, I contacted everybody I could think of . . . find out about through others, that were helping this community in some way with services.”
She said most are non profit, but not all. There were about 30 agencies invited and of those, about 21 attended that meeting. She invited a City councilman, a County Commissioner and just some “listeners” who were interested in the ministry.
Bartley’s eyes fill with tears when she describes it as a “beautiful meeting.” She said the “spirit of the community” joined together in a wonderful way.
“The spirit of that community of people, together . . . shared what we do in trying to help the people of this community. It was just huge. We all felt so supported.”
There is much to do at the SCSK, as Bartley has explained. She said with the rate God is moving this ministry forward, there’s room for others who have a servant-heart for helping otheers.