Sally’s Kitchen Gets Warm Welcome from Neighbors in Smithfield, N.C.
Tough times can reveal endless possibilities. No one knows that better than Major Kari Booth, corps officer in Smithfield, North Carolina, who opened Sally’s Kitchen when flooding devastated eastern North Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
“When we had the floods after Hurricane Matthew, we opened an emergency shelter in our gym, and we were feeding three meals a day to the residents. We also were delivering three meals a day to a special needs shelter in another community,” said Major Booth. “One day we realized that we are not too little to do this every week – we could open a soup kitchen and continue to feed the community. It was exciting to think about how we could help feed bellies and provide nourishment for the soul!”
When Sally’s Kitchen first opened, 10-15 people came for the hot lunch. Now 75-90 people come for a meal. One man who regularly eats at Sally’s Kitchen is a community volunteer who mows the grass for the elderly and people who are not physically able to maintain their lawns. Some of the regulars are homeless; others are from a senior citizen public housing facility down the street.
“This food means I have more money for medicine,” said one elderly woman eating lunch. “My budget is so tight that I can either choose to eat or have the medicine I need.”
Dana, who eats at Sally’s Kitchen regularly, is a decorated war veteran who had several tours with the Army. He enjoys the food as much as he enjoys the community and the friends he has made through Sally’s Kitchen.
“The Salvation Army is the unsung hero of Johnston County,” he said. “I had lost faith in people, but I kept hearing about The Salvation Army, so I decided to come by. The first person I saw was Major Booth – she smiled at me and welcomed me in. Where were these people all my life?”
Currently the Sally’s Kitchen serves lunch two times a week and one dinner a week, but plans are to open every day for lunch in the near future.
“People count on Sally’s Kitchen as part of their food every week,” Major Booth said. “We have to do this for our community. When the wreath goes up on the entrance door, everyone knows that Sally’s Kitchen is open for business, and they begin to line up.”
In addition, The Salvation Army operates Sally’s Sandwiches in the neighboring town of Dunn, which serves a sandwich lunch twice a week at the Army’s social services office.
Sally’s Kitchen uses volunteers to keep its doors open and the meals running smoothly. One group of volunteers is the corps’ Home League. To help pay for women’s camp, Home League members had the option to volunteer 10 hours in Sally’s Kitchen. Now women’s camp is over, but the volunteers come back to help every week.
“This program has been a blessing for our corps – everyone has gotten involved!” Major Booth said. “The perspective of our church members has changed from ‘The Salvation Army has a soup kitchen’ to ‘WE have a soup kitchen.’ What a blessing!”