By Laura Grisham
HOLLY SPRINGS – People from 19 area churches and civic groups came to the Garden Cafe Monday, Sept. 8, for a celebration in honor of their service to Sacred Heart Southern Mission (SHSM), Holly Springs Social Services and the Garden Cafe.
The annual dinner is a small token of thanks for the many hours of hard work these dedicated people do to make sure the needy in Holly Springs get a healthy, hearty, hot meal twice a week.
The Garden Cafe was started in 2009 as a way to better use food donations received by Holly Springs Social services. When it first opened it drew only 30 or 40 clients for its once-a-week seating. Once word got out, the numbers doubled. Now it offers meals twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and recently averaged 121 guests at each service.
Volunteer coordinator Kelly Tartt thanked all of the attendees, saying, “Time is the one gift you give that you can never get back. It is the greatest gift of all.”
After giving thanks, the guests were treated to a meal prepared by cafe coordinator Ralph Howard and volunteer Alan Stanford from the American Red Cross.
When asked how he managed a steak dinner for everyone, Ralph grinned with excitement. “Wal-Mart,” he explained. “I get a call most everyday for pickup. They give me everything a man could ask for to make all this possible – meat, oil dry milk, you name it.”
During dinner, Lois Harrison gave the Protection of Children presentation. This is a requirement for all volunteers and employees who work with children.
Ralph was pleasantly surprised when a longtime volunteer and Cadet/St. Mary’s alumni presented him with a $500 donation to go toward a new freezer for the Holly Springs Social Service food pantry. Vincent Smith and his family decided to make the donation in honor of the 10th anniversary of the death of his father, James Smith. “We know he would really like that,” said Vincent. “That would really make him proud.”
After dinner, Lois, Ralph and Kelly recognized each of the volunteer organizations with a certificate of appreciation. Volunteers were also given individual tokens from the mission.”We wanted everyone to know how very much their time and effort is appreciated,” said Lois.
Ralph commented at the recent social service meeting that he had never seen such giving from an entire community. “It’s amazing! I am blessed to be in this position,” he said.
Without volunteers from all of the churches and groups; without donors like Vincent and his family; without corporate sponsors like Wal-Mart, the Garden Cafe would not be able to serve thousands of people each year. Many people simply would not eat.
(Laura Grisham is the public relations coordinator for Sacred Heart Southern Missions)