Free meals are just a start

Orange nonprofit caters to homeless

Staff WriterNovember 12, 2005 

In the shadows of a brick beauty salon, hungry men, women and children were keeping an eye out for a red minivan that had pulled up about 6:30 p.m. each day this week.

They discovered Monday that volunteers, mostly from nearby churches, were handing out dinners from the back of it.

Feeding the hungry is the first step for a fledgling nonprofit organization called Neighbor House of Hillsborough that has a mission to serve the homeless in northern Orange County.

Neighbor House took shape this year from a vision that Ronnie and Sharkita Torain had to open a homeless shelter in the town.

The organization is starting with a food program to give the homeless and church people time to form relationships and build trust, Ronnie Torain said.

"We didn't abandon the plan, we just changed vehicles," said Ronnie Torain, as he watched a man in jeans and a baseball cap ask for two meals.

"I just got one for my uncle. He just got out of the hospital yesterday. So, can I take two?" the man asked, coming back to the van.

Neighbor House is handing out meals at The Shops at Daniel Boone on the south side of town and a spot next to Lunsford's Groceries, a convenience store on U.S. 70, on the north side.

The first evening started slowly at both places. No one approached the minivan at Lunsford's until a Hillsborough police car moved to the other side of the street.

After that, men and women, some looking bedraggled and poorly clothed for the cool night, began to casually walk by the van.

"Are you hungry?" the volunteers asked, offering a Styrofoam takeout box filled with a sandwich, granola bar, fruit and cupcake with chocolate icing.

Soon others approached.

The next night, Rebecca Compton drove up in an old car and asked for three of the chicken-and-dumpling dinners.

"I think it's very good, because a lot of people really need food," said Compton, who said she has been homeless and addicted to drugs in the past.

Her mother, who lives in the Fairview neighborhood across the street and is caring for her children, had told her about the free dinners.

Staff writer Cheryl Johnston Sadgrove can be reached at 932-2005 or cherylj@nando.com.

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