Soup kitchen might soon find itself homeless

Posted: November 18, 2013

The Winchester Star

Sharon and Troy Helmick (foreground) bow their heads as Bobby Tigney leads a blessing Thursday at Living Faith Church. At rear are Christopher Horton (left) and Helen Horton. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
Vickie Brinklow is handed a plate of food by Christopher Horton during Thursday’s lunch at Living Faith Church.

Winchester — The Rev. Jeff Beard doesn’t accept that Living Faith Church’s soup kitchen might soon serve its last meal.

Located at 419 N. Cameron St., the church will probably have to leave its current home in the coming weeks because the building it has leased for seven years is being sold.

With anywhere from 80 to 130 people relying on the soup kitchen for three meals a week and about 50 in his congregation, Beard and his wife, Kim, know giving up on finding a suitable place to relocate nearby is not an option.

“So many times people want to say it is just a soup kitchen, but it is so much more,” Beard said. “We have seen people’s lives changed.”

Jim Funk has owned the Cameron Street building since 1970 and operated Patton’s Movers in Winchester out of it until about 10 years ago. He relocated to Imboden Drive because the original location wasn’t practical for his trucks.

The building has been for sale since the business moved, but Funk leased it to keep it in use. He said he is getting older and thinking about retiring soon, and he doesn’t want to be in the real estate business.

“I really like Jeff and Kim. They are fantastic people. They have done a lot down there in the years they have been there,” Funk said. “It just comes down to the fact I am not a landlord. I always told them if the right offer came in, the building was going to be sold.”

At one point Beard said he tried to raise money to buy the building, but the economy took a bad turn and the effort wasn’t successful.

“You can’t expect people to pay for what we do here. They don’t have it,” Beard said. “But with the lives that have been turned around here, we are rich beyond measure.”

The 6,064-square-foot building was constructed in 1930 and was listed at $255,000, according to Ron Strosnider, owner of Apple Manor Properties, which is listing the Cameron Street property. He declined to reveal the buyer and wouldn’t say if the building is selling for the asking price because the deal hasn’t closed yet.

While Beard always expected the day would come when the building would sell, he said it still was a shock when potential buyers came through last month and he realized that day was upon him.

With the sale expected to go through by the end of the month, a Thanksgiving breakfast could be the last meal the church serves, he said. It depends on when the new owners say they need the building.

“We will continue to serve until they say we need to find another place,” he said, adding that he is actively looking for a new place to lease in the area.

For Living Faith Church, location is important to serving those in need. Beard said the church is “strategically placed to have an impact in the community.”

Many churches want to help, but because they are farther away from low-income areas, it is harder to be there to meet the immediate needs.

The soup kitchen is held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, said Bobby Tigney, soup kitchen manager. It also has holiday meals, including the Thanksgiving breakfast, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 28.

The soup kitchen is a place where people know they can come and get warm in the winter and cool in the summer, said Tigney, of Frederick County. Sometimes people show up early in the morning on soup kitchen days and just drink coffee and talk until the meal is served.

The food has to be prepared offsite, but it is heated when it arrives so people have something warm and filling to eat, Tigney said.

“The soup kitchen has given me a joy to see people come in and eat,” he said. “It does my heart good to know I can serve God by serving his people.”

The soup kitchen has grown steadily in the last seven years, Beard said. It started with his wife and two church ladies serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and soup out of the front door. Back then, they served an average of 25 to 30 people three days a week.

At that time, the church only leased the bottom floor of the building, but when it took over the second floor, too, it expanded into serving full meals, Beard said.

Most of the meals are donated by businesses and churches that Living Faith has partnered with, he said. The church started offering a clothes closet and handing out blankets during cold weather.

The building is also used as a meeting place for anger management and addiction support groups that will have to relocate, he said.

“We’ll just keep on going no matter what and keep on helping no matter what,” Beard said. “It is overwhelming, but I am in expectation of what is going to happen next.”

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com