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Becky McLendon couldn’t stand the thought of a child going to bed hungry, or someone going without food for days.
After her husband, Sam, accepted a job as Carroll County tourism director and they moved to Galax from North Carolina three months ago, her first goal was to start a soup kitchen at Rooftop of Virginia
God’s Storehouse Soup Kitchen will open Aug. 30, and food will be served from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at Rooftop, on North Main Street in downtown Galax. The kitchen will be operate Mondays and Thursdays and may expand to other days of the week.
McLendon said she knew the area’s unemployment rate is high and some can’t afford to pay their bills.
“I know that the need is great here,” said McLendon. “And I love to feed people. This will be a place where families can come in and get warm and enjoy food in a family-friendly atmosphere.”
Pastor Jill Burcham, director of P.U.S.H. Ministries, is helping McLendon get started. P.U.S.H. Ministries is based at Rooftop of Virginia and serves those in need with food, clothing, housing or help filling out a job application.
“We have a very high population of people that sleep in the woods,” said Burcham. “They came here to get food and clothing, and at the Free Clinic, some can’t provide an address because they don’t have a home.”
One of the main reasons many are homeless in the area is because there’s a shortage of Section 8 public assistance housing, with a long waiting list, she said.
“The only place to turn to is the streets,” Burcham added. “With the increases in electric bills, some have to let their electricity go and are evicted because of that.” When P.U.S.H. Ministries held a clothing giveaway, 287 people showed up. They even ran out of clothes to give away.
“We have a huge need to reach out to the people,” said Burcham.
God’s Storehouse Soup Kitchen, as McLendon named it, will serve anyone who needs a hot meal. It’s open to anyone in need, with no questions asked. There are some severely in need, and others that don’t have family, for example.
When McLendon lived in North Carolina, several people came to the soup kitchen where she volunteered, because they lived alone.
“They felt like someone loved them when they came in, and we did,” she said. “And we’ll love them here, too.”
Also, while living in Charlotte, N.C., she began a homeless outreach, in which she and her daughters would walk through downtown serving soup to the homeless.
“I just want to make their lives easier,” she said. “I remember when times were hard for me.”
McLendon said her family struggled to make it. She and her siblings went to school with holes in their shoes and clothes. She teared up as she remembered kids picking on them.
“Some homeless people are addicted and have tried to get off of alcohol and drugs,” she said. “We can sit and listen to them. One guy couldn’t believe I talked to him, because not one person had spoken to him in three days.”
Homeless people in Charlotte would line up and down the streets and wait for their meals from McLendon, her family and her church.
“They knew we were going to hug them and tell them they were important,” she said. “We made them feel connected to us.”
“It’s not just about feeding them food, but feeding them emotionally that’s also important,” said Burcham.
McLendon is now seeking volunteers, churches and organizations to help out with the program. Churches, for example, can cook and serve one day each month. McLendon is also planning to organize Christmas and Thanksgiving meals.
“Anyone can help,” she said. “Anyone that has a heart for feeding people and just wants to help out. And what I’m seeing is that people are so willing to help here.”
God’s Storehouse will also accept food and other donations, such as paper plates, cups and silverware.
• To find out more or volunteer, call (540) 392-5758 or 236-7131, ext. 225, or send e-mail to email@example.com.