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Back in the Day: Soup kitchen helps the hungry survive

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Calvin Shearin selects canned vegetable to add to the soup, which volunteers cook and serve to th ecommunity's neediest residents.


The Daily Reflector

Saturday, February 24, 2018

A cold drizzle was falling as people began coming through the side door of the Mount Hermon lodge.

They came in alone and in small groups — their thin coats were threadbare, dirty and wet — to the warm smell of vegetable soup that filled the brightly lit room.

Back in 1988, the Mount Hermon lodge building at Sheppard and West Fifth streets doubled as a soup kitchen every Monday through Friday to help the poor.

The kitchen was sponsored by the community and local churches, according to Gloria Chestang, who ran the kitchen as a volunteer.

Greenville businesses also helped out, Chestang said. A local grocery supplied the day-old pastry and bread used by the kitchen. The soup was made and served by volunteers..

The kitchen attracted all sorts of people. One middle aged man with a limp came in and was told he would have to wait the soup wasn’t ready. He sat in a chair by the wall next to a friend who came in with him, talking together quietly. Another man, clearly intoxicated, came in and started shouting. He was asked to leave.

On patron recounted how he was interviewed about the kitchen.

“I was sitting right over there he said, pointing. “The TV station came right up to me and started asking me questions about the soup kitchen. I didn't mind helping them.”

Another man said, “A whole lot of people would have nothing without this place without this place. Where are you going to go? You've got to have shelter in something to eat.”

Chestang and Joan McGee, a volunteer, could be seen moving around in the small kitchen preparing for bologna sandwiches. McGee said she went to Harlem in New York City for a week out of the year with a group from Emmanuel Baptist Church to help out with their soup kitchen.

“The number of poor people who come in here is about the same as it is in Harlem's soup kitchen,” she said.

“We usually have about 30 people a day,” Chestang said. “We see more towards the end of the month because their pension and Social Security checks run out by then.

“We get some people who have problems with substance abuse. They walk in off the street. Many people who would normally volunteer don’t volunteer here, and you can't blame them,” she said.

“This is a typical day,” Chestang said. “The people we see coming in are usually regulars, although in the past  we’ve had incidents in which people who worked in tobacco would come in for a free meal. They didn’t need to do that.”

Back in the Day is a weekly feature compiled from The Daily Reflector’s archives.