JOY Soup Kitchen: Serving Up Love, Hope & Joy

Started as the Greenville Soup Kitchen in the mid 1980’s, the JOY Soup Kitchen is the only place in Greenville that prepares and serves a free, daily meal to address an essential community need. With a mission to decrease food insecurity among the poor and homeless in our community, JOY Soup Kitchen is strategically located in one of the neighborhoods with the highest poverty levels in the city, whose residents experience high levels of food insecurity and lack access to quality, wholesome food.

Within walking distance to the Community Crossroads Center, which is a night-only homeless shelter that provides support for approximately 80 homeless individuals, JOY Soup Kitchen works in collaboration with other local organizations to provide additional services to the community. 

“The Joy Soup Kitchen enables organizations to fulfill community needs; it allows them to feed the body and their spiritual needs. Last year we served approximately 28,000 meals,” says Board member Karen Stephenson, retired pastry chef and Chair of Kitchen Committee. “We try to assist in housing and guidance for medical assistance and being able to provide fellowship for those in need.”

Tom Quigley recently relocated to North Carolina from Massachusetts where he had extensive experience with non-profits.  Since moving to Greenville, Tom has undertaken a major volunteer role at the JOY Soup Kitchen, assisting with acquisition of food items, meal planning and meal preparation.

“We have to lead by example,” says Quigley. “Poverty knows NO race, ethnicity or boundaries. People will always be in need and we have to be ready to meet that need.”

Visitors to JOY Soup Kitchen all have their own stories to tell. 

“I am disabled and live on a very limited income,” says JOY patron Jerry Pay. “JOY gives me hope for something better and a hot meal. Joy provides a very needed service, one that you do not realize until you are put into this situation. They provide a friendly atmosphere and warm people who are truly a blessing to us.”

Free diabetes and blood pressure screenings are provided during the mid-day meal once per month. On the first Wednesday of each month, Pitt County AIDS Service Organization (PICASO) provides HIV screening and counseling. The ECU Dental School serves a meal and provides regular dental screenings`.

“Areas often do better when the community has a positive beacon to gravitate towards,” Quigley explains. “JOY Soup Kitchen can be that beacon. Positivity is contagious. Let us be that contagion.”

The JOY Community Building serves as the location for Disabled American Veterans Chapter #37, whose volunteer Service Officers provide benefits counseling. During the past year, they helped over 900 veterans with VA Benefits and Pensions.  They also take veterans to the VA clinic in Durham.

JOY Soup Kitchen is always in need of volunteers, and Stephenson believes that some of the strongest attributes of a quality volunteer are “compassion for those who are in need without judging and a strong Christian faith; to be able to give with a full heart and know that you are making a difference in someone’s life.”

“We could not make it through the year without the support of volunteers, donors, churches and sponsors,” reports Treasurer, John Lennox “At the end of 2018 we had countless volunteers; over 60 individual donors; 17 churches; and 18 business sponsors that provided support to our ministry. In addition to these supporters, we have several restaurants that provide food supplies each week: Longhorn, Panera, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Outback and Red Lobster.”

“Our biggest need is financial stability,” says Stephenson. “We are non-profit and not federally funded. We depend on donations and pay out of our pockets to cover our expenses.”

The mornings are always busy in the Kitchen. Contact the staff between 8:30 and noon at (252) 561-7519.  JOY Soup Kitchen is located at 700 Albemarle Avenue. For more information and to make a donation, visit www.joysoupkitchen.org.  Consider donating in honor of family or friends, or in memory of those who are no longer with us.  To volunteer, schedule a group volunteering event, or become a JOY Sponsor, email contact.joyinc@gmail.com 

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40 

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