Dec 1, 2023
Author: Trenton Soup Kitchen

Recipe for Success

TASK inspires the launch of a new soup kitchen in North Carolina

Weenie Garner
Weenie Garner serves food with TASK’s “dream team” in August 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of things for a lot of people, especially Charlene “Weenie” Garner.

Garner, who lives in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, a town 40 minutes south of Raleigh, turned worry into action. Growing from her concern that children were going hungry during school closures, Garner galvanized her fellow congregants at Destination Community Church to launch “Feed the Need,” a drive-thru event which fed 250 people.

After that, Garner said, “I kept feeling a stirring in my heart. I was saying, I don’t know anything about this, and I went online looking for help, when TASK popped up.”

In fact, what Garner found, was a summary for the book Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen, which was published in 2011 by TASK Former Executive Director, Peter C. Wise; TASK Board Member, Martin Tuchman; and longtime TASK Board Consultant, Irwin Stoolmacher. After that, Garner called up TASK CEO Joyce Campbell, hoping to learn more.

“The book gave me step-by-step basics for starting a soup kitchen, but also every facet to running it,” said Garner.

When Campbell invited Garner to TASK to learn more, she jumped at the idea. During the summer of 2022, Garner visited TASK for a week, volunteering during meal service and visiting with staff to learn as much as she could. Garner also met with the Mission Possible authors to discuss what she had read in the book and learned on-site at TASK.

Said Tuchman, one of the book’s authors, “Our inspiration stemmed from a deep-rooted desire to make a difference in society, all aimed at empowering others to replicate TASK.”

“TASK can serve as a national model because we’re not just a soup kitchen; we are a haven of hope, compassion and dignity,” added Tuchman. “That’s the key to our success.”

After Garner returned home, she got to work to secure space in the church and recruit volunteers. David and Liz Bartlett were two of the people who answered the call.

When Garner returned to TASK again in August of 2023, the Bartletts joined her. “We had no preconceived notions,” said David. “We came for the purpose to learn every single aspect of the operation and what it would take to be successful. Immediately, we were embraced by every single person. That first day, we were both put on the line. Everything was so meticulous and coordinated — it was just superb.”

“We could really see people’s hearts,” continued David. “The one thing I took away the most was the appreciation. Without a doubt, we knew we were doing something good for someone that particular day. And that’s what we wanted to bring back home.”

In September, the Community Soup Kitchen at Destination Community Church opened its doors for the first time, with more than 50 volunteers on-hand to serve freshly-prepared, nutritionally balanced meals like those they’d seen at TASK. Liz has been manning the salad bar, an idea that TASK inspired, and all of the volunteers have enjoyed the opportunity to serve and encourage their patrons.

While they grow and continue to adjust as they learn more about their community, everyone is working hard to set the soup kitchen on the path to feed more and do more.

“What we realized at TASK is how huge everyone’s hearts were to feed people and treat them with respect,” said David, echoing the sentiments of the authors of Mission Possible. “We are all committed with a common goal. And that’s what we’re trying to model.”

Liz Bartlett lines up meals for lunch in our Escher Street dining room.
Tag: food insecurity - hunger - hunger relief - Meal Service - Mission Possible - Partnerships - Success Stories - Trenton Area Soup Kitchen - Date Posted: Dec 1, 2023 - Author: Trenton Soup Kitchen