At the corner of Curtis Street and Aragon Street in Rock Hill, trains rumble by just a few feet away in the coldest temperatures of the winter.
But the smell in the air alone provides warmth.
Not diesel fumes from the train, but baking cornbread wafting from the kitchen at Bethel United Methodist Church.
Cornbread and Bethel, cold and the first Thursday in January, mean one thing in Rock Hill: soup. Bethel's Thursday soup kitchen has run every Thursday, January through March, for 23 years.
Never miss a local story.
It is the primary fundraiser for the church's homeless men's shelter. As winter shows up with a vengeance, the timing couldn't be better; the numbers at the shelter have risen as temperatures drop.
"These coldest nights - 20s, teens - no one can survive out there in that cold," said the Rev. Josh McClendon, the Bethel pastor who spearheaded the start-up of the shelter four years ago to fill a need in the city after other shelters at capacity had to turn away men.
"We've seen more men the past couple of nights - even some new people we had never seen before."
There is no price sheet for this soup kitchen, just a big, clear glass jar about two feet tall that years ago must have held pickles or pig's feet.
Now the jar collects the money that will be the difference, maybe, between living and dying for the poorest men in Rock Hill during the cold stretches.
Darnelle Sweatt, a volunteer for many years, said the calendar and Mother Nature sure seemed to come together this year for Thursday's kickoff.
"We have the cold, we have the need with the men's shelter, and now we will have the food," Sweatt said.
The soup is cooked from food bought with donations, served in containers bought with donations, with all the labor from volunteers. The baking is done ahead of time, but by 5 a.m. Thursday, volunteers will be at the stoves in the church making the famous-recipe soup in huge vats.
The recipes - for chicken and rice soup and vegetable soup - are handwritten in marker and taped onto the wall inside see-through sandwich baggies.
Some volunteers will make sandwiches. Others will pour tea and lemonade and coffee. Still more will cut cake and serve and clean up.
And somehow managing all of this Thursday, as she has for years on these winter Thursdays, will be Ruth Culp. A retired schoolteacher, Culp will make sure the hundreds who come to eat are served.
"We will have the chicken and rice and vegetable soup," said Culp, nicknamed Mama Ruth because this kitchen is sure like her own. "Sandwiches - ham and bologna, peanut butter and jelly, and yes, pimiento cheese - and desserts.
"Whatever gets made or brought, that's what we serve."
Other volunteers deliver lunch to the sick and shut-ins.
The price of food has gone up in recent years, and the need for help is greater than ever. But what volunteers such as Culp and Sweatt say is simply, "So what?"
Donations help pay for church programs for the less fortunate, keeping the lights and heat on at the shelter, and paying for a security officer to stay overnight.
Drop by the soup kitchen and you might see a bank vice president sitting next to a guy without a home address. That's the whole point, said McClendon, the pastor.
"All are truly welcome," he said. "The guest list is simple - everybody."
While many of the volunteers are church members, several more are not. Anyone who wants to help can - be it scouring pots or serving food or cleaning up. When you might feed 500 or more people in one day, there's plenty to do.
"We can always use an extra set of helping hands," said Ruth Culp, leading the charge.
The start time is supposed to be 11:30 a.m., but dozens of folks are usually crowded inside, ready to eat before then.
And it all starts Thursday, with hand-lettered recipes inside bags taped on a wall, stirring with what looks like an old boat oar because the cauldrons are so big.
And that big glass jar with a hand-lettered sign taped on it that reads, simply:
"Donations. Thank you."
Want to go?
What: The 23rd year of the Bethel United Methodist Church soup kitchen
Where: 1232 Curtis St., Rock Hill
When: Open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday. The kitchen runs each Thursday through March.
Why: Donations help operate the church's homeless shelter for men during winter months.