Fort Mill Times

Driven to help the hungry in Fort Mill

Jimmy Baker serves hot meals out of the back of his car to hungry residents of the Paradise and Bozeman Drive areas.
Jimmy Baker serves hot meals out of the back of his car to hungry residents of the Paradise and Bozeman Drive areas.

Every weekend, Mary and Jimmy Baker turn their SUV into a mobile kitchen and dole out dozens of hot meals.

"God just gave us the vision to help other people," Mary Baker said. "Where we want to go is to have a facility in Paradise, a soup kitchen."

The neighborhood known as Paradise - it got it's name from the spirituals local historians say used to be heard while women there worked around their homes - is between Tom Hall Street and Springfield Parkway.

Mary Baker said God told to her take food to local residents struggling financially. So one weekend in March the Bakers loaded the car with fresh, hot food and drove up and down Joe Louis, Avery and Steele streets and Bozeman Drive offering a meal to anyone who wanted one.

They didn't get many takers.

"The first week we were out here in the cold, we only served two people," Jimmy Baker said. "It's gotten larger ever since."

"Them just coming in the community shows someone cares," nearby resident Darwin Morrow said. "People don't believe how many homeless and hungry there is in Fort Mill."

Morrow, who lives on a street just outside what is actually considered Paradise, met the Bakers early in their new ministry. At first, he said, many in the community were wary of the Bakers, but that suspicion quickly passed.

"It didn't take long for them to get to know the community," Crystal Watts said.

"Now when they see them, they come running," Morrow added.

The Bakers, along with about a dozen volunteers from Fort Mill Church of God, feed as many as 70 people a week now. They go out either Friday or Saturday night, but what they really need is somewhere to set up a permanent soup kitchen. They're hoping someone will donate space in the Paradise community. Morrow also hopes they find a space.

"It's bad that other churches have to come into the community and help," he said. "Our churches don't do enough for the community; they don't want to see where the homeless are."

The Bakers want to branch out and work with other groups in the township to provide meals more often, but first they need a facility. Mary figures 500 to 1,000-square-feet should be enough.

"Our desire is to serve others," Mary Baker said. "We've been in Fort Mill over 30 years, and have seen the need. Some people live in condemned buildings with no water or electricity," she added.

Watts lived in an abandoned home for a while, before moving in with Morrow, her uncle.

There's women out here with kids that don't have no where to go," Watts said.

The Bakers will go anywhere there is a need. In addition to riding through Paradise and Bozeman Drive, they have delivered meals to some of the homeless and needy people that hold "will work for food" signs on Carowinds Boulevard.

To get involved or to request help, call Baker at 230-4009.