Potato & leek, and hospice. Lowcountry bean and bacon, and hospice. Tomato bisque, and hospice.
Usually, nobody thinks "soup" when talking about how hospice helps so many people with terminal illnesses every year - except on one Thursday in November. And Thursday at Grace Lutheran Church was all soup, all day. It was the 7th annual Soup Studio, a fundraiser for Hospice & Community Care, which gives people the help they need in what can be the most difficult time of life for patients and their families.
The best part was that all the food and all the labor was donated. More than three dozen area restaurants pitched in with soup or baked goods or desserts. The labor came from hospice staff, plus bigshots and smallshots who volunteered to serve more than 300 people.
Hospice medical workers washed dishes and carried trays. People who hold hands with those taking their last breaths, or ease their pain before that time, hustled with bowls and soups and trays.
Serving the soup were some of the most well-known people in York County, who all gave time for others. At the head of the line, with a soup ladle in each hand, stood The Law. There were no shenanigans at lunch time Thursday as people paid $10 to step up and see Sheriff Bruce Bryant ladling out vegetable beef and tomato bisque.
"Get yourself a potato in your soup, good for you," Bryant said..
"Put a little more in there, fella," one lady told Bryant, and he sure did. On Thursday's shift, Bryant gave no orders, but took them.
So did Jimmy "Moose" Wallace, the rightfully legendary football coach at Northwestern High School. Wallace served soup to help others Thursday. Like Bryant the sheriff, Wallace said he was "happy to do it."
There were doctors, nurses, bankers and college professors pitching in. Rock Hill Fire Chief Mike Blackmon stood next to 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett. They spooned out soup and took orders. Nobody chimed in with that old Seinfeld TV show line, "No soup for you!" because everybody got soup.
That's the hospice way - there is no "No" at hospice.
Maybe the fastest ladle belonged to a tiny dynamo named Phyllis Myers, a hospice volunteer. She worked the line, and worked the crowd, like a nightclub comic. She is the lady who, some days, is the last person a dying hospice patient ever sees, or hears, or knows cares about them.
"Hospice is one of those places that you have someone need it and use it, that's when people really appreciate it," Myers said.
About 300 people, young and old, came to eat soup, and they came hungry.
They left full, and hospice made money for the services the nonprofit group provides. Hospice is more than nursing care in a hospital bed or the very end at Hospice & Community Care's hospice house on India Hook Road. It is counseling, spiritual guidance, and family assistance.
Hospice has helped thousands of people in the past 25-plus years, from all walks of life.
A month ago, it was at that hospice house where William "Sonny" Cameron, a man who had lived on the streets for some of the last of his 64 years, spent his final weeks.
It was where the staff who had helped him packed together for his memorial service after he died.
"What we do is treat people with dignity," said hospice worker Alene Bolin, who on Thursday wore an apron splashed with soup instead of a clinical smock.
Janna Reid, a Winthrop student, volunteers at hospice. She volunteered Thursday, too.
"Hospice is the greatest," Reid said, a statement so brief. And so true.
Want to help?
Call Hospice & Community Care at 803-329-1500, or visit www.hospicecommunitycare.org