Martha Peck, the head of missions at UBC, said a group of four to five church members worked together each week.
“We decided if we had a small group, wore masks, socially distanced and had our own work stations in the kitchens, it would be safe to come in,” Peck said.
Peck said the members of the church wanted to keep the church together and continue serving the community during the pandemic, so they looked for what was needed in the community.
Carolyn Daniels, head of missions at First Baptist Church, said she and Peck have a connection from mission work that their churches do together to serve the community.
“When I got the call from Martha about ‘Stock the Pot,’ I thought it was an answer to a prayer about how to help during the virus,” she said. “It gave me a chance to see our members and check in on them beyond a phone call.”
Peck said between 40 and 50 UBC members had a role in the project preparing, packaging and delivering the soup as well as identifying who in the community needed the soup. Other members made financial donations.
She also said ‘Stock the Pot’ shared soup with essential workers throughout the community as well as the women’s shelter, the Refugee Support Center and shut-in people identified by church volunteers.
“COVID-19 has been so devastating and this has been a way for people to join together,” Peck said. “There’s something we can do that is helpful to people. Soup not only tastes good, but is good for you.”
Banks said she was not just interested in making food, but making something that would boost someone’s immunity.
“It’s always good to feed someone a meal, but pumping someone’s immune system is gratifying,” she said. “The marrow in bone broth is where the magic is. This is why we were motivated; we couldn’t have hung in there if we hadn’t really believed it could make the difference for somebody.”
The vegetables in the soup came from the church's community garden, where some Chin refugee families who are UBC members grow ingredients unavailable in American grocery stores. Refugees also have their own garden space at a co-op on Jones Ferry Road.
“It was as close to fresh as could be,” Banks said. “They would harvest their garden in the morning then bring the produce to the church for us to chop and put into the soup.”
The group alternated between beef and chicken soups each week, including beef and ziti and chicken and dumplings.
Penny Weaver, a member of FBC, said the soup was delicious.
“It made me feel wonderful and it was a big help,” Weaver said. “It just made me feel so good.”
Joe Bray, a member of UBC whose late wife Dina taught Banks how to cook, was the “chief vegetable and meat chopper” for the operation. He said being a part of ‘Stock the Pot’ taught him a lot about compassion and wanting to instinctively help people with no hesitation.
Bray, the official photographer for Carolina Baseball, said the group decided to do nine weeks of servings like nine innings of a baseball game.
Bray said one of the most memorable moments of being a part of ‘Stock the Pot’ is when the group received word about a lady who was down to only water and bread.
“I got a bunch of servings of soup from that week, tracked down her apartment and knocked on her door,” he said. “There was a very faint, scared voice asking, ‘Who is it?’ When I told her it was Joe Bray bringing her soup, her voice changed. She said in a strong, happy voice, ‘Hallelujah!’”
Bray said being part of ‘Stock the Pot’ was a very humbling experience and made him realize how lucky he is.
“It feels good to pay my fortune back in some small way,” he said.
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