The week of Valentine's Day is a great time to celebrate and thank individuals in the towns and cities we serve that spread love all year long while helping to end hunger in our communities. Local Food Lion associates recognized five "Souper Star Kitchens." had the privilege of showing 'love" from Feb. 12 through Feb. 16, to five local soup kitchens that do outstanding work in their communities.
Over 60 Food Lion associates showed up prepared to roll up their sleeves. They not only donated the equivalent over 8,000 meals, but associates also showered soup kitchen staff and volunteers with love as they donated, prepared and served a healthy meal. Food Lion Feeds provided gift baskets filled with Valentine's Day treats of chocolates, cookies and other goodies for the tables to show their appreciation and to add to the festivities. In addition, the soup kitchen was awarded a certificate of appreciation for receiving the honor of being designated as a "Souper Star Kitchen".
Below, we've recapped each event and what it meant for these communities and those who deserved a little extra love this Valentine's Day week.
February 12 – The Master's Table in Augusta, Ga.
Seleste Trent has only been working nine weeks as the lead cook at Golden Harvest Food Bank's "The Master's Table" soup kitchen in Augusta, Ga.
But you couldn’t tell that on Monday.
Trent's leadership seemed effortless as she helped 10 local Food Lion associates prepare hot chili, cornbread and tea for 300 local hungry people.
"I love doing this," Trent said during an interview outside the kitchen. "I feel like you have to treat people with love and respect. We can show love by what we do and cooking is our expression of love."
Christina Alexander, Golden Harvest Food Bank Public Relations Assistant said she was excited when Food Lion contacted her wanting to help with its mission of feeding hungry people.
"We are going to feed up to 300 people today so that's a lot of work that has to be done really fast," Alexander said. "For a corporation to not only come in with volunteers but to provide the meal and give us the opportunity to fix a nutritious meal of our choice for clients is wonderful."
"I always tell the volunteers to smile when they are serving people because no one is invisible," Trent said.
People from all walks of life came to soup kitchen Monday. There was the single mother and her children, the regular customer who Trent fondly calls "Steeler" because he always is wearing Pittsburgh Steeler gear, and scores of others who come all for the same reason – to receive a hot food and a smile from volunteers.
At the end of the afternoon when all was said and done, those same Food Lion associates who started early preparing the meals were in the kitchen cleaning up so that the staff would not have to do it.
"It humbles me," said Dana Barksdale, Store Manager of the Food Lion located at 3722 Mike Padgett Highway in Augusta. "I think that more people should know about this and volunteer to do this. It makes you feel good to help your community."
A staff member at Golden Harvest Food Bank produced this video recapping the event.
Feb. 13 – The Harvest Center in Charlotte, N.C.
Isabella Pickett's name may be on the sign for the kitchen at the Harvest Center of Charlotte, N.C., but to her, the focus has always been on the food she cooks and the individuals that enjoy it.
As the head cook at Isabella's Kitchen at the Harvest Center, Isabella and her daughter, the only other staff member at the kitchen, are joined by volunteers every Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare and serve breakfast and lunch to around 100 individuals. Today, they were joined by more than 10 Food Lion associates, who helped prepare, cook and serve a lunch of beef stew, salad, rice, cornbread and cupcakes to members of the community fighting hunger and in need of a warm meal.
For Isabella, who started out as a volunteer at the Harvest Center 16 years ago, serving food to her neighbors in need is a mission. "I started out working only three days a week and got to know a lot of the people, particularly those who were homeless, and I could tell in my heart that that's what I wanted to do," Pickett said. "
Before the service, the Food Lion team honored Isabella and The Harvest Center as a Food Lion Feeds Souper Star Kitchen for 2018, and presented her with a certificate and a basket of sweet treats as a way to say thanks for all that they do to help end hunger in the community. But it's clear that for Isabella, the work her and her daughter do is not about the recognition.
Rather, it's about the smiles she sees on the faces of the visitors she serves every week, who may be getting their only warm meal of the day – or the week – from her kitchen.
"What drives me every day is seeing the smiles on people's faces and how much they enjoy the food," Pickett said. "You get to know people and interact with them. I don't just stay in the kitchen; I have to come out and interact. I know just about everybody who comes in here and I care about them."
Care was a word said a lot today, and it was clear to the Food Lion volunteers today that Isabella and her team care deeply about each of the individuals who walk through her door.
Feb. 14 – Greensboro Urban Ministry in Greensboro, N.C.
The group of individuals volunteering at Greensboro Urban Ministry's Potter's House Community Kitchen on Wednesdays is a committed bunch. Some have volunteered for over 20 years, while it's only been a few months for others, but today, they welcomed the group of 10 local Food Lion associates with open arms as we joined with together to serve a warm lunch to over 200 hungry individuals.
The associates also recognized Potter's House as today's Souper Star Kitchen awardee for the tremendous work the organization does every day to feed their neighbors in need.
The associates helped serve a meal of spaghetti, salad, bread and dessert to individuals that came from all over Greensboro, and they were greeted by Food Lion associates from across the region as well.
Store managers from North, South, West and East Greensboro Food Lion locations were all represented at the event because they understand the importance of the work organizations like Greensboro Urban Ministry do every day. We're fortunate to have great partners like the Ministry in our mission to help end hunger in our community, and we're proud to honor their commitment to our shared cause.
Feb. 15 – Love's Kitchen in Hendersonville, N.C.
Five years ago Bruce and Diane Miller, along with another couple, had a calling to help feed people in the Hendersonville, N.C. community and were able to make that a reality when the "powers to be" at First Baptist Church supported their vision of opening a food pantry on-site. Hence, Love's Kitchen was born.
When they first opened their doors, they expected around 20 people would show up but to their surprise, 67 people ended up coming. That's when Bruce and Diane knew how important Love's Kitchen was going to be for the community. On a weekly basis, Love's Kitchen serves an average of 60 people with not only a meal service, but also provides them much needed clothing and a bag of food to take home.
"We hope that by taking home a food bag that someone will be able to pay for gas or even a bill now" said Diane. And that's one of the reasons why Love's Kitchen was recognized as a "Souper Star Kitchen" by Food Lion Feeds.
As part of that recognition, Food Lion associates from local area stores showed up on February 15th to prepare and serve a meal to 79 people at Love's Kitchen. In addition to serving the meals, Food Lion also donated close to 700 pounds of food.
"It's really great to be out here today and it's been a wonderful experience helping out" said Richard Pegg, Store Manager at the Candler store. All of the Food Lion associates who volunteered were in agreement with Richard's remarks, and saw how impactful Love's Kitchen is to the Hendersonville community.
Diane concluded the day by thanking the volunteers and Food Lion. "We are so grateful to Food Lion for coming out to help today and donate all this food. All the support we receive is through MANNA Food Bank and individual donations, so this means a lot to us."
Feb. 16 – The Corner Table in Newton, N.C.
The Corner Table Soup Kitchen in Newton, N.C. is serving up more than just food to hungry people in their local town. Operating as a full service restaurant, guest of the Corner Table are served a home cooked meal with a side of dignity and respect.
From the time the first guest enters the kitchen, volunteer's spring into action taking up roles you would normally find at your favorite restaurant. As many as twenty volunteers wait tables, prepare and serve meals for up to 150 guests per day. Volunteers visit each table of guest to take orders that are then passed along to kitchen staff- allowing guest to have their meals prepared just the way they like it. It's this type of personalized service that earned The Corner Table recognition as a "Souper Star Kitchen" by Food Lion.
"It's an honor and blessing to serve the people of Newton with dignity and to make them feel like their being served at a restaurant instead of going through a serving line. We just love this organization," said Kimberly Young, Food Lion Store Manager.
Kimberly and Hickory area Food Lion associates are all very familiar with The Corner Table and the personalized service they've brought to fighting hunger for the past 25 years. She and fifteen associates eagerly volunteered to support today's event by preparing and serving the guest most requested meal of fried bologna sandwiches, donated by Food Lion.
"This has truly been a tremendous effort by all, we love working with food lion. They do so much for our community by putting hunger relief first within the company and we are fortunate to have such a close partnership," explained Summer Lee Jenkins, Executive Director of The Corner Table.