There is a wonderful place in Charlotte, that unless you are in need of such a place, you might never know it exists. It is called the Urban Ministries Community Center. It is located at 945 N. College St. 704-347-0278. It opened it’s doors in 1979 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte, before moving to it’s current home in 1994 where it has been in continuous operation ever since. Every single day, regardless of the weather, 365 days a year, close to four hundred “neighbors” as they are called, begin gathering there at 11am to share the noon meal that Urban Ministries provides for them. In 2016, 103,288 meals were given out. Since they opened their doors almost 40 years ago, over two million meals have been provided with no questions asked to anyone who is hungry and walks through the door. Urban Ministries is the largest, oldest soup kitchen in Charlotte. When people come here they receive more then just food for they bodies. They get nourishment for their souls too.
Stranger’s have become family due to the experiences they share of lives that have somehow gotten away from them. Many of these neighbors are people just like you and I. For most, a tragedy they didn’t see coming sent their lives spinning out of control. One day not too far in the past they may have held jobs and raised families, or served our country in the armed forces and possibly owned homes of their own. Others suffer from addictions that took over their lives. There are as many different reasons as there are people who come, through the doors, as to why they find themselves in need now. The loss of a job when their employer closed down. Perhaps a lengthy illness and lack of health insurance or the break up of a marriage and loss of their family caused them to just give up. Maybe they experienced something so horrific while in combat that the PTSD they suffer from keeps them from being able to handle life’s responsibilities. Now they find themselves in need of the most basic necessities of life. Instead of homes where most people keep their belongings, the neighbors carry all of their worldy possessions with them 24 hours a day in wrinkled paper bags or maybe a backpack they found discarded somewhere.
The staff and volunteers at Urban Ministry know how hard their lives are. Living on the streets is dangerous. Self esteem, dignity and self respect are hard things to hang onto when you have fallen so far down on your luck. They come to Urban Ministries because they are in need of so much more than just a warm lunch. Here they can take a shower and wash their clothes, send mail and receive other essential services. Each neighbor is greeted every day with a warm smile and a friendly welcome. They know that no one is judging them here.
The urban ministries kitchen is run by a small staff and a large contingent of volunteers. The food is prepared by a no nonsense angel in disguise who could run circles around famous chefs but chooses to make it her life’s work to feed “her family’s bellies as well as their souls. The effort that goes into feeding a family this big is only made possible because of the over 300 volunteers a month that consistantly show up to lend a helping hand. In talking to these volunteers you get a sense right away that they feel they get far more in return then what they give.
Urban Ministries is always in need of more volunteers. If you have an hour or two to spare, please consider giving your time to this very worthy cause.