Murray Community Helps Hungry, Offers Meals

Hungry people of Murray gained a new resource over the summer.

Soup for the Soul, a soup kitchen downtown, opened its doors in June and offers free meals Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., while Need Line continues to offer numerous services to the community.

Soup for the Soul founder, Debbie Smith, had the idea for the kitchen after noticing the need at a Bible study she attended, said Stacey Steely, daily manager of Soup for the Soul.

Sign outside Soup for the Soul welcomes visitors. Adrienne Vititoe/VoiceBox Media

Sign outside Soup for the Soul welcomes visitors.
Adrienne Vititoe/VoiceBox Media

“She saw an overwhelming need of people coming to the Bible study making the statement that this was the only hot meal they were getting throughout the week,” Steely said. “So she put something on Facebook that said ‘Hey I’m going to open a community kitchen. Who’s with me?’”

Steely said the response Smith received was overwhelming.

“Overnight there was a massive amount of response so she knew it was going to be a supported effort,” Steely said. “And then she just started gathering people with like minds and like hearts. They started meeting and praying about it and doors began to open. It was definitely a God-inspired operation.”

Today Smith continues to stay involved.

“I love it here and it’s amazing,” she said.

Smith is not alone in this opinion.

“It’s a really beautiful thing that Murray has here now,” said Janie Bagby, frequenter of the kitchen. “The food is good. The people are so friendly. It’s like a little family.”

Steely confirmed Bagby’s words.

“There’s a pretty regular community that takes advantage of it,” Steely said. “A lot of familiar faces.”

However, she also said the community is constantly expanding.

“There’s some faces tonight that I’ve never seen before,” she said. “It’s growing. We serve anywhere from 75 to 100 people a night.”

But Steely said she would still love to see more.

“Let people know they’re more than welcome to come,” she said. “It’s not just for low income; it’s for anyone.”

Steely said this growth would not be possible without the kitchen’s support from the community.

“It’s really amazing how the community has come together to make this happen,” she said. “People just show up with canned goods, a 50 pound bag of sugar from one of the restaurants – just random stuff, but stuff that we need in the kitchen. I honestly didn’t even know there was a need here, but not only has the community shown us that there’s a need, but they’ve shown that they want to come together and help each other out.”

Volunteers prepare to serve food to patrons at Soup for the Soul. Adrienne Vititoe/VoiceBox Media

Volunteers prepare to serve food to patrons at Soup for the Soul.
Adrienne Vititoe/VoiceBox Media

Bagby said this effort by the community has made a great impact in her day-to-day life.

“It’s more than just what people think of soup kitchens- you know, bowl of soup, bread, a line at the door,” Bagby said. “I come here just to wind down my day. I look forward to it. I mean, look, it’s like a restaurant. Maybe some people might stereotype it because it’s a soup kitchen, but it’s way more than that to me.”

Table setting at Soup for the Soul

Table setting at Soup for the Soul Adrienne Vititoe/VoiceBox Media

Don Roberts, fellow lover of the kitchen, echoed this sentiment.

“It really doesn’t come down to the food,” Roberts said. “It comes to place to congregate, gossip. The food is secondary.”

Steely validated Bagby and Roberts’ feelings toward the organization in an anecdote about what it did for one of its volunteers.

“I had, last Friday, a disabled girl who had a stroke in a coma,” Steely said. “She woke up at the age of 2, when she’s like 50-something years old, so she’s learning how to walk, learning how to speak, but coming in here was the first time she had been out of her house in a social setting in like three months, so giving her the ability to come somewhere and not only have dinner, but to help serve… she left in tears.”

Soup for the Soul is not the only place in Murray those in need can go for help. Need Line, a nonprofit social service agency, assists with everything from hunger to education to monetary issues.

“What we are is a food bank,” said Vickie Prescott, associate director for the organization. “We help with electric, water. We do blankets in the wintertime, fans in the summertime. We have 272 seniors on our senior program. We have 350 children on the backpack program. Just overall we help with life-sustaining medication, medical transportation.”

Prescott said Need Line filters through more than 1,000 applications for families each month.

“We see more of a need now than we did before,” she said. Prescott said that when it comes to the food, there are two resources available through Need Line.

They can get USDA food every month and food from the pantry six times a year.
Need Line is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., with financial help until 3:30.

Those interested in getting involved with either organization can find additional information at https://www.facebook.com/Soup-for-the-Soul-1570512796528153/ and http://www.volunteermurray.org/volunteer/agency/display/murray-calloway-county-need-line-inc/?agency_id=3553.

Where they are located:
Need Line: 509 N 8th St.
Soup for the Soul: 411 Maple St. (Murray Family Church building)

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