By Angela H. Hill
The Patrick Springs Ruritan Club Soup Kitchen plans to be up and running again Tuesday, delivering soup and beans to 40 or so area seniors and families.
Last week, Lock Boyce, Patrick County’s Mayo River District supervisor, offered to let the soup kitchen re-open at a rental house he owns in Patrick Springs. Boyce said he will pay all rent and utilities.
Van Rowe, who hatched the soup kitchen idea in February 2015, has moved in and modified the Tudor Orchard Road home, following a county board of supervisors vote of 3-2 to evict Rowe’s operation from its former digs in the Patrick Springs Park Community Building on Ball Park Road.
“I’m really pleased,” Rowe said. “I think the house is going to work out really well. It has a lot more room and the set-up is more private. Lock Boyce—praise him as much as you can. Without him, the soup kitchen wouldn’t exist right now. We were effectively shut down. I know the county says ‘We don’t want you to close,’ but the move shut us down.”
Boyce said that he and Rowe were “not the people hurt by closing the soup kitchen. The people who were hurt by closing the soup kitchen were the residents they serve soup to and go visit and pray with every week.
“Those people are citizens of this county too, just as much as people doing fund-raisers, just as much as people renting the [Patrick Springs Park] building for weddings, and baby showers and events,” Boyce continued. “This happened to work out okay, but the board of supervisors was wrong. This was a bad vote.”
At the county board meeting on Monday, Sept. 13, five supervisors reviewed a letter Rowe received from the Patrick Springs Parks and Recreation Committee asking him to vacate the building by September 1 so that the facility could better accommodate sports, recreational activities and other events.
Mark Trent, spokesperson for recreation committee, said at the supervisors’ meeting that the facility doors were locked, some sections of the kitchen were inaccessible, and that many felt as though Rowe had “taken over our building.” The county has owned the building since 1986.
Peters Creek District Supervisor Rickie Fulcher, Smith River District Supervisor Crystal Harris, and Blue Ridge District Supervisor Karl Weiss voted in favor of the recreation committee’s request to move the kitchen. Voting against it were Mayo River District Supervisor Lock Boyce and Dan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden, board chairman.
Weiss said that the board of supervisors did not mean to “make waves,” but felt that having the soup kitchen in the parks building deterred county residents from using the facilities.
“I’m very pleased everything worked out for the good of everybody,” Weiss said of the move. “We always thought it was a good thing—it’s something the county needs—it was just in the wrong location at the rec. facility.”
Rowe, on the other hand, told the board that because the kitchen was operating only two days a week, he did not believe the kitchen’s presence was an imposition or an obstacle to activities and events.
“The old location seemed to be such an ideal location,” Rowe said. “It had all the facilities and was convenient; and the building was heavily under-utilized. There was nobody there on Monday and Tuesday mornings. It sat empty 95 percent of the time.”
Throughout last week, Rowe and a crew of volunteers set up the kitchen’s new home in the 900-square-foot house. Volunteers moved a dishwasher, a chest freezer, an upright freezer, and a gas range.
One small bedroom was converted into a pantry and two utility sinks were installed in the kitchen. The large bedroom will be used for supplies and meetings.
“Everything is coming around,” Rowe said. “We could still use another refrigerator, some folding tables and chairs, and paper products.” The kitchen is also seeking a food-grade stainless steel table.
Rowe said he anticipates soup kitchen volunteers will pick up where they left off, cooking, cleaning and delivering homemade food to people in need of a warm meal and companionship. “Right now we are going to have to get re-organized and reestablish ourselves and put out the word that we’re available.”
Health codes met
At the September 13 board meeting, the issue of health-department licensing as it applies to the soup kitchen was brought up by Peters Creek District Supervisor Rickie Fulcher.
Rowe said that as long as he does not actually serve food to the public, he is not bound by health-code licensing. He said that in 2007 the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill to exempt soup kitchens and food banks from permits and inspections.
However, as a matter of course, Rowe did ask Jeff Turner with the Virginia Department of Health to inspect both the old and new locations.
“He said, ‘Van, you’ve got everything you need here.’ ” Rowe complied anyway with a few “minor things” such as putting a thermometer in the refrigerator. “Jeff said that as long as you’re doing what you’re doing right now, we’ll treat the house as a residential home.”
By Angela H. Hill
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