The idea of an all-you-can-eat dinner for Hickory’s poor and homeless came from two Lenoir-Rhyne University seniors a few days before commencement this week.
Quinn Scarvey, 22, of Salisbury and Simone Anderson, 22, of Boone – both of whom are graduating Friday with degrees in elementary education – had stopped at the campus convenience store for sodas when they realized they had meals left on their accounts.
They’d paid for the whole year, but skipped breakfast and other meals along the way. Scarvey had 125 unused meals and Anderson would later find that she had 150 left.
Knowing that the meals would be gone by semester’s end, Scarvey suggested a donation to the Hickory Soup Kitchen.
Just then Lenoir-Rhyne Food Service Director Chad Young entered the convenience store.
“I asked if we brought a hundred-plus people to the cafeteria could he feed them,” Scarvey recalled. “He said ‘Absolutely. Just give me a heads-up so we can have enough food.’ I was delighted he was so on board. It was really refreshing.”
Scarvey and Anderson were excited about the opportunity to do something for the community during their last days in college.
“I’m humbled by this,” said Scarvey, who is a member of Circle K International, a service organization.
On Wednesday afternoon, Scarvey and Anderson walked with a group of people about 10 blocks from the soup kitchen to the Lenoir-Rhyne cafeteria, joining others who were waiting to use their meal plan.
For 1 1/2 hours, folks from the soup kitchen could dine on everything from the salad bar and deli fare to turkey breasts with cornbread stuffing and pizza. By the end of the evening, more than 100 meal tickets were used, Young said.
“I love this idea,” Young said.
So did Austin Pearce, executive director of the Hickory Soup Kitchen.
“This is a pretty unselfish act by two students about to graduate from college and who probably will not live in Hickory,” he said. “It’s a source of inspiration to see them reach inside and be creative. It’s wonderful when people do that.”
Last year, Pearce said the soup kitchen served 80,819 plates to a client base made up of 55 percent who are at or below the poverty level and 45 percent who are homeless.
For these clients, the donation of unused meals “is the kind of gesture that makes them know this community cares about them,” Pearce said. “This is one of those things that lets people know they are valued.”
As they pursue teaching careers in North Carolina, Scarvey and Anderson say they’ll look back on their final days in college and how they were able to help others.
“I wish we’d thought about it sooner,” Anderson said. “Maybe somebody can continue it next year.”