MOORESVILLE – Services at the Mooresville Soup Kitchen (MSK) continue to expand as the nonprofit celebrates 30 years of serving the community and surrounding areas.
Starting in 1987, the group’s main focus was offering food security. Since then, its mission has developed into more than just providing meals. MSK now has employment opportunities as well as instructors, human resource services and classes that help teach job skills recruiters are looking for.
MSK Executive Director Lara Ingram said in the past couple of years, the nonprofit shifted priorities and worked heavily on outreach. At first, the soup kitchen was a facility community members had to physically go to if they needed help. Understanding that might be inconvenient for some, MSK began providing those same services by partnering up with several different organizations throughout the area.
“We saw that the services (became) difficult for some people to benefit from,” Ingram said. “So we changed the focus of our markets. Mooresville Soup Kitchen’s markets are now located in several churches and in various parts of town so there is an easier access.”
Some programs that were introduced throughout the years help MSK staff find the root cause of the problem, Ingram said. One of those programs is Kitchen Connections.
“In the planning process we identified that food was the significant need, but people who were using Mooresville Soup Kitchen also had other significant needs as well,” Ingram said. “People came to use Mooresville Soup Kitchen for food, but we also started to connect them to community resources for medical care and jobs and housing. We want to support and solve the root of the problem.”
Extending services to surrounding counties is something MSK has also celebrated, Ingram said. So far, residents from Mecklenburg and Rowan counties have benefitted from the soup kitchen. Another way MSK is trying to better their services is getting a more concrete idea of what people are in need of, instead of just assuming.
“We had volunteers canvass around the community the soup kitchen serves and asked several neighborhoods on the kinds of services they needed but didn’t have available,” she said. “This way we had access to where the holes in our community still exist and what we can do better. We’re excited about collecting the data and implementing it for the upcoming year.”
Volunteer coordinator for MSK, Tyshameka Hollins, originally volunteered with the nonprofit every day for a year and three months, she recalled. Hollins found a job, working for a hotel, because of the soup kitchen but would still volunteer her time. An opportunity arose, and there was an opportunity for Hollins to be employed by MSK.
“The atmosphere is what drew me in, time and time again,” she said. “I don’t do happy – I do joyful and kindness. And there is a lot of joy and kindness from both the volunteers and the guests that we serve.”
The soup kitchen serves as many as 150 individuals a day.
“There are about 70 volunteers who are regulars, and that right there alone can help you understand the love and work that goes in this community,” Hollins said. “People come in for fellowship and encouragement and to keep a positive outlook on whatever situation they’re having home at home.”