By Taylor Boyd
The Patrick County Soup Kitchen has opened a drive-in effort at Stuart Baptist Church as a temporary replacement to its meal delivery program.
Van Rowe, who started the soup kitchen, said the group stopped doing deliveries in March because “delivery drivers didn’t feel safe doing it with COVID-19.”
But Rowe said he knew the need was still there.
“We’ve been doing deliveries since we started the soup kitchen about five years ago until the pandemic started. We were delivering 50 to 70 quarts of soup and 30 pints of beans each week, so we know a lot of people are in need,” Rowe said.
He was approached by Thomas Walker, pastor of Stuart Baptist Church, about having the drive-in soup kitchen at the back of the church.
“Walker said the church voted to allow the soup kitchen to use the space. They also gave us a room to use as storage space for some of our non-perishables,” he said. “We started doing the drive-in three weeks ago, and no one showed up the first week. We’ve had about a dozen people come each week for the past two weeks.”
Most of the people who came have been those with the greatest need.
“Several of our clients are getting assistance from the Patrick County Social Services Department. They’re the people we set out to help,” Rowe said, adding that he asks people who come to get food to take extra when they leave.
Daniel Hudley, head of the food bank at the Pentecostal Holiness Church in Patrick Springs and a drive-in soup kitchen volunteer, said the organization does not waste what isn’t passed out.
“What we don’t pass out at the drive-in goes to the Cotton Mill Apartments and Cedar Square Apartments,” he said.
The drive-in soup kitchen also has the potential for sit-down seating if there is a demand for it, Rowe said, adding the building the organization is using could be considered outdoors. “If we open the garage doors and turn on the air conditioner, it’ll be a gazebo.”
Rowe said he started the soup kitchen after asking Ivalien Reynolds if she knew anyone who was hungry.
“She named 15 people right off the bat, and I decided to start the organization to help with the need.”
Reynolds believed in the effort as well, and became a long-time volunteer.
“The soup kitchen was shut down two or three years ago by the county because we didn’t meet a code. Dr. Lock Boyce told me he approved of what the organization was doing, and he gave us his rental property to cook and store food so we could meet the requirements to stay active. He gave the soup kitchen free reign of his rental house,” Rowe said. “If Lock wasn’t who he was there would be no soup kitchen or no drive-in soup kitchen.”
Currently, “we’re unable to deliver food because of the pandemic, and there’s a lot of hungry people in the county. I ask people to take extra for their neighbors and anyone they know who is too scared to leave their homes,” he said, adding he hopes more people will come to the drive-in.
“The only requirement to get food is that you have to be hungry,” he said.
The Soup Kitchen is open on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at 1208 Tudor Orchard Road. The drive-in Soup Kitchen at Stuart Baptist Church is open on Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Anyone interested in volunteering may call Rowe at (276) 694-2709.
Donations of non-perishable items may be dropped off at the Soup Kitchen. Anyone wishing to donate perishable items is asked to first contact Rowe.