When Maleka Anderson first started making meals for the homeless from her Fort Mill kitchen, she received a large bag of lentils as a donation toward her cause. Not a fan of the lens-shaped legumes, she worried no one would want to eat them.
“We didn’t even know how to make lentils,” Moms Making Moves founder Anderson said.
But when she and four other mothers distributed the meals in Uptown Charlotte, the taste of lentils moved one man to tears.
“He said how much he loved lentils and how he hasn’t been able to get them for a long time, he started crying while he was eating the lentils,” she said. “We thought this was something no one would ever like, but to find out that this meant so much to somebody – just knowing that you can impact somebody with something so simple.”
Since that day in 2016, Moms Making Moves has gradually expanded. The effort outgrew Anderson’s kitchen in 2017 and relocated to the Leroy Springs Recreation Center and Fort Mill YMCA, where a group civic-minded residents gathers on the third Saturday of each month to prepare meals. In January, the nonprofit’s volunteers prepared and distributed over 1,000 meals in one day.
Fort Mill resident DeShara Mitchell has been a part of this mission since the beginning. As a new mother who’d recently moved to the area, she was in search of a way to connect with her community.
“I felt kind of lost for a little while because I didn’t know anybody, but I was raised to help others and serve the community,” she said. “This was a way for me to get back into myself, to find that loving, caring person again because I’d become so complacent. This helped me remember again that there are people in this world who need help, there’s so much more that I can do.”
On Saturday, Mitchell helped organize 30 volunteers at Fort Mill YMCA. Within one and-a-half hours, the group had prepared 400 meals to distribute in Charlotte.
Each brown paper sack contained a sandwich – either meat and cheese, peanut butter and jelly or chicken salad – a snack of chips or crackers, a fruit cup and a piece of fresh fruit.
“It’s important to me that we give out fresh fruit because often the homeless are constantly getting prepackaged, non-perishable staples,” she said. “I think it’s nice to make sure we’re giving them something fresh.”
Once the meals were loaded into six cars, the distribution team split up into three groups – two cars to each route. One group’s first stop was near the intersection of Phifer Avenue and North College Street near Mecklenburg County Veterans Services.
“There’s a parking lot there where people congregate,” Anderson said. “When it’s warm people hang out there and sleep under the trees.”
The next stop was Urban Ministries. As the volunteers passed out the brown sack lunches and Ziploc bags stuffed with toiletries, they also offered smiles, handshakes a few minutes of friendly conversation.
On the way to the bus station, one volunteer spotted a homeless woman curled up on a blanket at the corner of a building. The car safely pulled off the road and the volunteer ran up the hillside to give the woman a bagged lunch.
After handing out about 350 sandwiches, the volunteers dropped the remaining meals off at the local shelters and called it a day.
“When you see the people and they’re so appreciative, you have people who cry or who pray for you, people who are excited,” Anderson said. “You don’t even know how much this means to them – it’s all worth it.”
Stephanie Jadrnicek: email@example.com