Starting next week, a new partnership of like-minded community groups will begin a weekly hot meal service for the homeless of Mount Airy. The combo team of Maranatha Homeless Outreach and the Men’s Shelter of Mount Airy decided to work together to provide another weekly hot meal service for some of Mount Airy’s most vulnerable.
Next Thursday, Jan. 20, will be the first of the meal offerings from Maranatha and the Men’s Shelter of Mount Airy, it will begin at 4 p.m. behind Rose’s on Independence Blvd. This would be the area around the Lovell’s Creek Pocket Park along the Emily Taylor Greenway. Event co-organizer Ann Simmons said the plan currently is to continue service from the same location.
The new meal service will be in addition to the weekly meal service already offered by Maranatha. The groups hope that by teaming up they can get the word out to more people and get more food where it is needed.
Last Friday Maranatha served 51 plates at their evening meal service at Flat Rock Church of God. Having meals offered on different days in separate locations will maximize the outreach possibilities for both groups.
The Maranatha Homeless Outreach team has been on the job in Surry County and beyond for more than a decade under the leadership of Chrissy and Rickey Daughenbaugh. It was on Christmas Eve that they set out with toys for the children of Mayfield, Kentucky, who were impacted by the devastating wall of storms that swept through several states and killed 77.
After those storms hit and having already completed the Maranatha toy drive for this area, it was time to change gears. When the need was greatest and the people in Mayfield needed any hand, the decision was made that was where Maranatha Homeless Outreach was being called to next.
Now, the need has been identified and is a local ongoing concern that needs help in being addressed. As has been discussed in council meetings and beyond, there is a need for additional support for the homeless community of Mount Airy and Surry County.
The new Shepherd’s House expansion is a welcome addition of more beds, its current facility from 2003 is meant for temporary housing for 18. “We will have a 64-bed capacity,” said Shepherd’s House Executive Director Jana Elliott, “quite an uptick from where we are now.”
An exciting component to the Shepherd’s expansion, and one that will dovetail with combating local food insecurity, is the addition of a new commercial kitchen space. This will increase the output to beyond “just meeting the needs of shelter occupants,” Elliot said, while also providing skills development for the residents.
Ann and Joe Simmons have been laying out their foundation for the Mount Airy Men’s Shelter in hopes of filling in the gap that Shepherd’s House leaves. The Shepherd’s House model is one set for women and children, “They had to turn away 141 families last year due to lack of space and turned away single men,” Simmons said. “That is why we need our shelter. We will also take in overflow families and unsheltered women.”
The new Mount Airy Men’s Shelter is still in its planning stages as finding a space within the city limits that can accommodate such a venture has proven hard to come by. A church Simmons had hoped to purchase needed more refit work than was feasible to get it converted into a shelter.
For the Simmons, the desire is there, the apparatus and non-profit documents are ready, there are funds in the bank and supplies have been donated. However, it is that elusive room at the proverbial inn that she is still looking for. “Currently we are serving as a shelter through supplying needed items until a shelter is established. We so want to find a building or land for the permanent shelter.”
The needs exist even if the Mount Airy Men’s Shelter is not yet in its brick in mortar home, which is why partnering with Maranatha Homeless Outreach to find ways to give aid now is of paramount importance. “We are getting more calls every day from the homeless. We do still need some place for them to go during these cold nights.”
For now, the goal is to focus on what is in front of them and what can be addressed rather than linger in worry about the future. As the weather has now taken a chillier turn after unseasonably mild temperatures, Simmons discussed menu ideas for some stick to your ribs crock pot favorites for the new hot meal service.
“The meals are going to be hot. Soup, chili, occasionally things like pork or chicken fried rice. Salisbury steaks with mashed potatoes, or spaghetti with garlic bread,” Simmons listed among her desired menu items for future meals, “and always dessert, hot coffee, tea and waters.”
To aid in their effort, Simmons and Daughenbaugh need help from the public in getting the word out to those who need it about their new joint venture.
The public’s support is always welcome from both organizations. As Maranatha board member Penny Rinehart explained their mission is year-round, “Monetary support, help with cooking the meals, collecting coats and gloves all year. We are very thankful for everything that is donated and every prayer that is lifted up for this group.”