By Miguel Balbuena, Community Correspondent
Renard Cuthrell walks two miles with three of his little sisters and his little brother to eat at the Southside Church of Christ soup kitchen. He has been leading the little ones there every Saturday for the last three years.
“I stay after the meal to help with the clean up,” Cuthrell said. “We mess it up, so we should help.”
Volunteers at the church have been helping South Side residents meet their nutritional needs for the last 13 years. Every Saturday up to 110 people, mostly children, often showing up on their own, come to eat, chat and interact with the community. Meals are provided from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays at the church located at 1327 W. Colvin St.
“The kids see the soup kitchen as a place of refuge which serves as an avenue to develop relationships,” said Beverly Griffins, a coordinator at the soup kitchen ministry and a parishioner at the church.
Griffins enjoys giving the kids who come to eat a different environment than they get at home or in the street, she said.
On this Saturday the church was called upon to help the community in a different way. On a wall outside the church the message “What should I do? I was raped by my dad,” was written in chalk.
Griffins came into the kitchen as volunteers were working and asked them to come outside to pray and discuss what to do about the message.
“Isn’t that horrible?,” Griffins said. “It makes me want to cry.”
The group decided to leave a note to the anonymous victim urging him or her to come to church on Sunday morning to get help or to alert their school counselor. As she and some of the children taped a response to the wall other volunteers suggested that the wall might continue to serve as a place for children in the community to ask for advice anonymously.
Kenny Martin, a long-time parishioner at the Southside Church of Christ, was helping out at the soup kitchen on May 8. He recently bought a 40 acre plot of land in Smyrna, N.Y. that he uses for church retreats and to take kids involved with the church camping.
“That’s the nice thing about a private camp ground,” Martin said. “Public camp grounds need to buy insurance to have a fishing pond. On private land you don’t.”
He plans to start digging a pond soon so that parishioners can enjoy some fishing while on retreat.
Every Friday evening members of the church drive out to the Parnera Bread on Erie Boulevard to pick up the extra bread to distribute to those visiting the soup kitchen on Saturday. Garbage bags full of bread covered a table in the corner of the room.
“It’s extra bread that would be thrown out otherwise,” Martin said.
At a table in the church, Renard Cuthrell sat munching on a hard-shelled taco and watching over his sisters, Marcy, Rosemarie and Mirajah, and his brother Carlyeah. Within a half an hour all their styrofoam containers were clean. The only thing left were the deserts, muffins and cookies wrapped in cellophane.
“I hope,” Cuthrell said, “they have chilidogs next week.”