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Stafford’s County Café Serving the Hungry
Editor’s note: Lindley Estes is filling in for Amy Umble while Amy’s away.
By LINDLEY ESTES
Every Tuesday after 4 p.m., the County Café in Stafford will close its doors to the public and open them again at 5 p.m. for the needy.
In a partnership with The Stafford Hope Center, it began hosting a weekly soup kitchen on Aug. 4.
Pastor of Hope Chapel in Stafford Mike Hancock said that they have had about 20 visitors during each of the first two dinners offered, but he hopes to help 100 people in need per week as word gets out about the soup kitchen.
They teamed up with the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank, SERVE in Stafford and Stafford social services to advertise the service.
The Fredericksburg Area Food Bank has also helped provide the soup kitchen with food. What is not donated by the food bank is purchased with Hope Center funds.
The volunteers that take over the County Café’s kitchen each Tuesday serve a bowl of soup; a grilled cheese sandwich (or PB&J for children if desired); a salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and dressing; a hot vegetable; mixed fruit dessert; and a beverage.
Hancock said monetary donations are appreciated and needed. He would be happy to place a card stating who provided the meal if any organization would like to provide one night’s meal.
He said the statistics for hunger in America affected him and made him want to start a soup kitchen. He found through feedingamerica.org that one in six Americans struggles with hunger. It is estimated that 10,380 residents in Stafford County fall within the definition of being “food insecure,” according to Hancock.
“Although Stafford County has a lower food insecurity rate (8.3) than the state (12.4), there are still hungry neighbors that need help,” he said in an email interview.
“The Soup Kitchen is just one of three robust food programs of the Stafford Hope Center. A food pantry is open during Hope Center business hours for non-perishable food. Fresh (perishable) items are distributed on Saturdays, and the soup kitchen (providing a hot meal) seemed like the next logical step in reducing hunger in our area.”
He said that they hope to feed the hungry in an atmosphere ”where our patrons will experience love and support, dignity and respect.”
Hancock also said that he hopes the community notices the County Café’s willingness to serve and that the Stafford Hope Center will continue to grow and be able to provide more services to those in need.
If you want to go next Tuesday (or any Tuesday following), the soup kitchen opens at 5 p.m. and the last patrons are seated at 7:15 p.m. Doors close at 8 p.m.