A kitchen helping the pangs of hunger

There was no hunger Thursday afternoon for Bridgette Boyd.

Like almost every weekday, the 39-year-old had eaten lunch at the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen on Crawford Road.

"Free food," says the sign over the soup kitchen door.

Like all those other days, Boyd didn't ask what was on the menu. She just ate.

"Meat and potatoes and gravy," she said of Thursday's lunch. "They are so nice."

I think she meant the meat, potatoes and the people who serve them.

Boyd was one of about 100 people who ate Thursday. They were of both sexes, different races, different ages. After the food was gone, and the place cleaned up, it still smelled great, like an aunt's Thanksgiving kitchen.

Statistics released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed almost 15 percent of South Carolina families said they don't have enough money for food. The state has worse hunger than a decade ago, different from national numbers that show the number of hungry people about the same. This newspaper ran a story about it on Thursday's front page.

Nobody at the soup kitchen had to read that story to know more people are hungry. This past summer, when the soup kitchen normally sees a dip in attendance, there was no dip, said Brother David Boone, who founded the place decades ago.

"We had about 100 today, and the day before that, and in August and July," Boone said Thursday.

But later for Boyd and the other 99 or so people, and others, when the sun sets and it gets cold, the hunger will come back.

And tomorrow night. And on Sundays, when there is no soup kitchen.

Boyd has a wonderful sister named Vickie Cathey. Cathey brings food to her sister on Sundays. Gives her money when she can. Cathey even tried Thursday afternoon to find somewhere to help with some money to pay the light bill at the house where Boyd lives.

"I have to look at God. I can't say I didn't have time for my sister," Cathey said.

That house where Boyd lives is around the corner from the soup kitchen. One front window is a pillow, stuffed in the breach where glass once was, to keep out the cold.

But there was no heat Thursday afternoon. There will be no heat today if the overdue utility bill isn't paid. No electricity to turn on the stove to cook the food, even if there is any food.

That is part of Rock Hill on a Thursday afternoon, with temperatures expected to dip to 29 degrees overnight. That pillow can't keep 29 degrees at bay.

Also on Thursday, a preacher named the Rev. Ronal King picked up about 200 turkeys for next week's Thanksgiving. He's done this for 33 years, through the Christians Feed The Hungry ministries, and found a way through donations to give out turkeys and more on Thanksgiving.

"But I still need more turkeys, more donations, more volunteers," King said.

And that doesn't count the days between today and Thanksgiving, when the hungry of this county need to eat. And after.

"In the country we live in, that has so much for some, hunger is a sadness there is no need for," King said. "This year is worse than ever. There are people eating out of garbage cans and Dumpsters."

Boone and King said unemployment is the main reason there are more people without money for food. That may be so.

But is the reason what matters?

Good thing it's national homeless and hunger awareness week. At a few minutes before noon today, in line at the soup kitchen, Bridgette Boyd will be aware all right that she most likely hadn't eaten in almost 24 hours.