Three women cooked and prepared meals for more than 100 strangers Wednesday at the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen in Rock Hill. They were paid nothing.
Also on Wednesday, two candidates for president were in Rock Hill telling people how they are the solution to what ails America. One got fired from a high-level corporate job and was handed $21 million on the way out the door. The other is a member of Congress. Both are certainly good people, but no soup kitchens are needed for fired CEOs and politicians. Those with money tend to land on their feet.
The other news Wednesday was Pope Francis’ visit to Washington, where we told everyone that poor people matter. The leader of more than a billion Catholics around the world – almost 70 million of them in the United States – planned to tell Americans and Congress on Thursday about embracing immigrants and the broke. He speaks often about something the ruling classes of both parties like to refer to as “income disparity.”
After speaking to men and women of wealth in Congress, Francis will leave the capitol and bless tables of food at a Washington, D.C. soup kitchen that will feed the poor and the immigrants.
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The women at the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen on Crawford Road cooked and served anyone who showed up. The pope’s message had been heard loud and clear – and acted upon – long before he arrived.
Lynné Carrouth, who leads a volunteer group twice a month at the soup kitchen, said people can choose to either see the poor and help them, or they can choose to look right past them. Carrouth looked right at each man and woman who walked through the line Wednesday – hungry or homeless or both – and smiled at each one.
Her smile was contagious. The poor smiled back.
So did Mary Long and Diane Lamantia, serving and smiling.
“We are here to serve people,” Carrouth said.
It sounds simple.
Client Terry Boulware blessed the food before the crowd ate chicken and potatoes, fruit, rice and okra. They even got loaves of bread to take home.
“The pope is saying that you help people to give people hope – and right here it is true,” Boulware said.
America is the richest country in the history of the world, but in Rock Hill, one in five people is so broke that the only meal might come from this soup kitchen, which has operated six days a week for nearly 30 years. The soup kitchen is named for a famous Catholic social activist, Dorothy Day, but volunteers from several faiths and other groups volunteer as many as four times a month.
The food is donated and purchased from a food bank. There are no employees.
The Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen is a beating heart in its community.
“We are here to help the poor,” said one of the founders, Bev Carroll, who still is involved as executive director and was handing out bread Wednesday. “The people who volunteer, they are as diverse as this city, as this nation.”
Some clients are homeless and regulars. Some are new. A van driven by a volunteer named Reggie Fort delivered clients from the Renew Our Community agency, which provides all kinds of services to York County’s homeless.
“In America,” Fort said, “you see someone who hasn’t eaten all day, maybe two days, you help them.”
One of the clients walked with a cane. She got help carrying her plate.
“God bless you,” she said.
There were two new faces, young guys in their late teens. They ate like the food would get up and run away. Even their eyes were hungry.
After the people ate, Fort helped them back into the van. He used one arm because he lost the other one in a traffic accident when he was a child.
“You give a helping hand with what you have,” Fort said.
Even if it is just one.
On Thursday, politicians around the country will be asking for votes, talking about fixing America. At the same time another group of volunteers will be at the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen, cooking the food that will feed Rock Hill’s poor.
On the wall of the kitchen is a calendar, showing when each volunteer is scheduled to work. There are Presbyterians and Methodists, Catholics and Baptists and others.
Next to it is a portrait of Pope Francis with a simple caption.
“Let us journey together.”
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065
Want to help?
Contact the Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen, 902 Crawford Road at Bannon Hall; P.O. Box 845, Rock Hill, S.C. 29732; 803-366-4142 or 704-519-5952.