A Huntersville soup kitchen is expanding its summer food program in northern Mecklenburg County, preparing to provide free bag lunches for seniors living on fixed incomes.
Starting in early June, the Angels & Sparrows Soup Kitchen plans to double the number of food deliveries its volunteers make to communities in town, as well as in Cornelius and Davidson, reaching out to a vulnerable population that represents a large share of its regular clientele.
“We want to make sure that they have a nourishing lunch,” said Sandy Tilley, the founding director of the established soup kitchen. Noting that many seniors often leave there with leftovers, she added, “They have more month than they have money.”
The lunches are delivered during summer months to students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools who receive free or reduced-price lunches, mainly those in elementary and middle schools.
But the soup kitchen has long sought to include seniors, many of whom live in the same communities as those students. They include public housing developments and mobile home parks.
Containing sandwiches, snacks, fresh fruit and bottles of water, the lunches are sent out four days a week between the end of the school year and the beginning of the next one. Seniors will receive the lunches over the same period.
In addition to expanding its hunger relief efforts, the Old Statesville Road soup kitchen is seeking to work with churches to ferry seniors to and from its weekday meals, if only one day a week, Tilley said. She noted said some do not show up some days, as they rely on others for transportation.
A homelike gathering place just outside downtown, Angels & Sparrows serves an average of 150 meals each day during the workweek, including on holidays, Tilley said. That is a more than twofold increase since it opened nearly eight years ago.
Last year, a total of some 43,000 meals were served, she noted, including about 12,600 bagged lunches. This summer, it plans to deliver twice that much, sending out a total of some 2,000 each week. That is expected to cost about $30,000, Tilley said.
Many who come into the soup kitchen are native, about one-third of them seniors, Tilley said. Some are disabled, homeless or mentally ill; others have low-paying jobs and are unable support themselves and their families.
With a $100,000 annual budget, the nonprofit relies on as many as 200 volunteers. Small groups run the soup kitchen on a given day.
Much of the food it serves is donated, including from grocery stores and farmers. In warmer months, truckloads of vegetables arrive almost every day, many of them organic, Tilley said.
“We cook what people give us,” she said. In her mid-70s, Tilley is one of four people who prepare meals every day. “We take it all.”
The soup kitchen is one of only two in the Lake Norman area. At the other, in downtown Mooresville, about 2,000 meals were served on a recent week. Half of them were at three meal sites, two of them in town and one in Statesville.
“There are working folks who cannot make ends meet,” said Vickie Traynum, executive director of the Mooresville Soup Kitchen, which also delivers emergency food boxes. She added, “We are all one crisis away.”
Occupying an old auto shop, the soup kitchen relies entirely on donations. Its biggest fundraiser, Lobsterfest, is scheduled for June 4.
Beyond preparing food, the soup kitchen serves as a resource, posting job openings, helping people fill out paperwork and making referrals to other human services in the area such as nutrition classes and job training programs.
This summer, it plans to start offering a recreational program for children who come into the soup kitchen with their parents. Working with the town’s Cultural and Recreation Services department, it will involve arts and crafts and other activities a couple of hours each day.
“I know it’s not going to change the world,” Traynum said of the program, “but it could change one or two of these young people’s lives.”
Jake Flannick is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
To volunteer or learn about the Angels & Sparrows Soup Kitchen, visit http://angelsandsparrows.org/#home.
For the Mooresville Soup Kitchen, visit www.mooresvillesoupkitchen.com/.