Thursday in January meant another soup day in 22 years of soup days at Bethel United Methodist Church in Rock Hill. Not soup for a club, but soup for the masses.
Pots of soup, cauldrons of soup, enough to feed about 500 people - all sold for donations collected in a big jar. All started at 5:30 a.m., all of it served by a dozen or more volunteers marshaled around the kitchen by the longest-serving volunteer of them all, Mama Ruth.
"We make money for scholarships here at the church, for the Salkehatchie program, even to pay the most expensive month of utility bills for the church campus," said Mama Ruth, Ruth Culp. "And we have the homeless that we want to help."
The homeless at Bethel is not somebody else's homeless. Not somebody else's problem. The church opened its doors three years ago, and still does at night for homeless men to have a place to sleep.
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Some of those donations for the weekly soup kitchen - open each Thursday in January, February, and March - goes to help pay for the homeless services.
"These people need others to help them," said soup kitchen volunteer Darryl Dornbush, whose wife volunteers with the homeless feeding. "Well, those others are us."
The only thing that stops this soup kitchen is ice and snow. Last week, an icy parking lot forced the soup kitchen to stay closed.
"We had people who would have walked over ice to eat here," said Culp. "But it was just too dangerous."
To get all the work done, so many volunteers have to pitch in. Culp and two other ladies handle the grocery shopping. Some people cook, others package food to send to shut-ins, others clean or do whatever has to get done.
Everybody has a role. Karen McClendon, wife of the church pastor, Josh McClendon, packaged up the toiletries and other items each homeless man gets. Aline Bell washed a thousand dishes and said she was happy and proud to do it.
Parker Carter stirred soup like he has for years.
All the food is made by hand. The soups - potato and vegetable Thursday, chicken and rice and vegetable next week. The hundreds of sandwiches that go with each meal. The desserts, the cornbread, all of it.
And although the soup kitchen is a ministry of the church, not only church members help out. Sunday at a different church Culp met a woman named Maxine Smith. On Thursday, Smith was right there at Bethel, offering what she could.
Culp knew Lona Gilmore, who attends still another church, from the years both taught school. On Thursday, Gilmore was volunteering along with a friend she knows, Rick Arciniega.
And Culp led them all, by example, doing what ladies of her generation do - work. She stirred pots and washed dishes and carried groceries, sometimes seemingly all at the same time.
"I'm retired military, and Mrs. Culp would have made a great drill sergeant," Arciniega said.
Then the crowds start to show even before the opening time of 11 a.m. And when it is all over, enough food is kept for the homeless men to eat that night. Any other leftovers go to a women's shelter.
The soup kitchen supports itself. That donation jar gets filled, and emptied, and it goes into more soup, and more stuff for those men without a place to live, and more.
"It is just a way to help make the community a better place," said Ruth Culp.
Making Rock Hill better, these volunteers, a pot of soup at a time.