Raleigh, N.C. — The COVID-19 pandemic has placed new demands on many charitable organizations, like the Shepherd’s Table Soup Kitchen, which has served the hungry in the Raleigh area for 40 years and has never struggled more.
Close to lunchtime, kitchen manager Michael K. Smith begins rolling out packed meals from the kitchen to the sidewalk on Morgan Street in downtown Raleigh where people line up for lunch.
“I love my job,” said. “I love doing this for my people.”
Smith is one of just three staff members in the kitchen providing hot lunches to people in need five days a week. In the pandemic, staff and volunteers now have to work harder than ever.
“They have been the backbone of this operation, because what 25 people used to do in a day we’re now doing with five a day,” said executive director Tammy Gregory.
Before March 11, Gregory said companies, especially those in the downtown area, encouraged their employees to spend time volunteering. Then health risks that came with COVID-19 changed everything, with volunteers and donations dwindling and dining rooms meals coming to a halt.
Gregory said it took a day to figure out their next step to feed those in need.
“We have kind of a drive-thru set up, and they can come get lunches,” she said. “We make snack packs too, so they have something for the evening.”
Shepherd’s Table also provides masks, hand sanitizer, sports drinks and water bottles.
Gregory said, since support from the community diminished, the number of hungry people increased.
“They still need food. They have no income. As you know, we’ve lost so many jobs in the hospitality industry,” said Gregory. “These are our neighbors — these are the people you see every day on the street.”
Gregory said the group needs help to meet the need.
“We have over 380 companies just in this downtown area within a four block radius and we’re getting no support,” she said. “We say kindness is shown in different ways. Well, write a check, because that’s kindness for us right now. We need that support now more than ever.”
Gregory said Shepherd’s Table also needs regular donations of canned foods and other non-perishable food. Learn how to support them online.