Lake Norman Magazine

Mooresville Soup Kitchen

Joshua Taylor, 5, of Huntersville, has been visiting the Mooresville Soup Kitchen since he was a baby.
Joshua Taylor, 5, of Huntersville, has been visiting the Mooresville Soup Kitchen since he was a baby.

The Mooresville Soup Kitchen served hot meals to about nine people the day it opened at First Baptist Church in 1987. Today, the nonprofit operates out of its own 5,000-square-foot facility on South Broad Street, where it serves on average 140 people a day, and also offers a number of counseling and educational services, says executive director Jody Schwandt. And with the country still struggling to recover from the Great Recession, Schwandt says more folks rely on the soup kitchen than ever before. “And they come for more than food,” she says. “A lot of people consider the soup kitchen their second home, and they come here for the fellowship.”

On a lifetime of service: Schwandt says she’s volunteered for various social causes all her life, including at a hospital in Washington state, where she and her husband lived before moving to Mooresville in 1997. Schwandt was volunteering with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity helping build houses in the Lake Norman area when a fellow volunteer invited her to come to the soup kitchen. “I didn’t even know Mooresville had a soup kitchen,” she says. “But I really enjoyed working one on one with people and building relationships. That’s how you make a difference is someone’s life.”

On overseeing big changes: Schwandt volunteered at the soup kitchen for about two years before she was hired as executive director in 2006. She was at the helm of the nonprofit when it moved out of First Baptist Church and into a former auto parts store in 2008. The move allowed the soup kitchen to expand its services. Last year the kitchen served a record high of nearly 40,000 meals. “People have this misperception that we only serve the homeless or unemployed,” says Schwandt. “But it’s everyone from the elderly to your neighbors; it’s everyday people. The only requirement for eating here is you have to walk through the door.”

On a second family: Schwandt went through a very rough period in her life starting about two years ago. First, her mother passed away in November 2009. The following summer, her father died and her husband was diagnosed with cancer. (He’s since been given a clean bill of health.) “It was just an awful time,” says Schwandt. But through it all, Schwandt’s fellow volunteers and clients at the soup kitchen helped keep her strong. “They always asked about my family and how I was doing, and said they were praying for me. It hit me that they were my family, and that really lifted me up.”