Every year around this time, we get inundated with calls from people wanting to volunteer and give back on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but hunger, in fact, comes the other 363 days of the year as well.
When we think of good deeds, giving back, loving acts of kindness, we should think about these year-round, not just during the most celebrated holidays. Hunger, heartache, homelessness and all the other reasons people come to our soup kitchen are prevalent daily. Our needs for financial support are daily as well.
The myth about a soup kitchen being just for the homeless is just that, a myth. Most people think of hungry people and homeless people as the same, but the problem of hunger reaches far beyond homelessness. The thought of 1 in 4 children and seniors going to bed hungry or at risk of hunger should be disheartening to us all. Our line forms each morning with those in need, and their stories of how and why they are here would bring you to tears.
Many of our guests don’t choose to be homeless or endure life in the soup kitchen line. But many have had circumstances and tragedies that have put them in what feels like an endless cycle of hopelessness. Pride keeps many from coming to us, but those who submit to the hunger and realization that they need some help aren’t so ashamed when they see others who are in need just like them.
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We treat all our guests with great respect and welcome anyone and everyone without any judgment or questions. We serve a hot meal that warms not only their physical needs but in many cases some of their emotional needs, too. Knowing that there is a place where help is free and given by kind and welcoming volunteers we hope eases the pain of whatever our guests might be going through.
Those feeling like they want to do something to help those in need during the holidays perhaps should do a self-inventory of what the holidays are and what the rest of the year looks like. Our doors open daily Monday through Friday all year-round. We need help to keep our kitchen going and to be able to spread that kindness and love during the holidays and throughout the year. Give generously to help people this holiday because, even though they are strangers, they are our neighbors.
Please think about us during the summer months when there is no special holiday to bring those in need to mind. There is always a need. Let’s try to be kind and giving all year long.
May your hearts be filled and rejoice knowing that anything you give will help someone who is hungry and in need. This is the greatest gift you can give or receive.
Tammy Gregory is executive director of Shepherd’s Table in downtown Raleigh.
Find information about the soup kitchen and ways to give at www.shepherds-table.org.