David Lauderdale

Hilton Head soup kitchen serves helpings of food, doses of caring

Hilton Head Island's soup kitchen was decorated in red Monday for Valentine's Day.

Two volunteers cuddled babies so their mothers could eat and visit with friends. This is a sign of new trust between the mothers and the "Grateful Hearts Soup Kitchen."

Crock pots were filled with homemade vegetable soup and chicken dumplings. Sandwiches of donated Panera Bread and cold cuts from Sam's Club were popular, especially when a volunteer grilled the ham-and-cheese sandwiches. Salads, drinks and desserts were taken to tables covered in clean newsprint from the remnants of the rolls used to make this newspaper. Red flowers stood out on each table.

Since six people and three churches quietly came together to make the soup kitchen a reality Nov. 3, attendance has risen to 40 to 60 people. It's open from noon to 1 p.m. Monday and Wednesday at Holy Family Catholic Church on Pope Avenue.

It started with Holy Family, First Presbyterian and St. Luke's churches, but now the corps of 50 trained volunteers represents other churches. The Rev. Art Dalupang was pivotal, giving permission to use what organizers call Holy Family's key location.

Freddie Hodges heads the soup kitchen on Monday and Charlee Pullon on Wednesday.

They call it a sanctuary where everyone is welcomed with no questions asked.

I sat by a woman who said, "Since my husband died in 2007, I don't eat much." She gets a warm meal at the soup kitchen twice a week, and at First Baptist Church on Wednesday night for $6. She said she eats snacks and yogurt and drinks a lot of Ensure.

"It's such a blessing to get a good, hot meal," she said.

Volunteers noticed that another woman who weighed about 70 pounds would eat a little, then go outside and throw up. She was homeless. They saw to it she got medical help. She had a cancerous tumor blocking her stomach. She had seven hours of surgery Friday.

The goal is to give people more than food. It is to give unconditional love.

Second Helpings brings food given by businesses all over town. One day, the soup kitchen featured salmon stuffed with crab in puffed pastry. When temperatures dropped to the 20s, sweaters and coats were donated by the Church Mouse and the Litter Box thrift stores and Congregation Beth Yam. First Presbyterian's knitting ministry sent boxes full of warm sock hats.

Organizers are confident they are helping stretch dollars that barely cover rent and electricity. They know they are helping the homeless and jobless.

"I can't say they would die without us," said one of the organizers, who calls the beach his church. "I can say that it's making their life a little bit easier physically and I think a whole lot better spiritually."