By Todd Cohen
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — At the six tables and 47 chairs in its dining room, Samaritan Soup Kitchen in Winston-Salem serves roughly 360 meals a day to hungry and homeless people, with each table “turning over” to new diners 10 times in the two-and-a-half hours lunch is served each day.
Volunteers and staff at the soup kitchen, the only one in the city, have served over three million meals since it opened in 1981.
Now, with demand rising in the wake of the continuing economic downturn that began with the collapse of the capital markets nearly four years ago, Samaritan Ministries is set to launch the public phase of a capital campaign to raise $4 million to expand the soup kitchen and its other programs, including a long-term residential recovery program for substance-abusers and a shelter for homeless people.
“We just can’t serve the volume of folks that need our services,” says Sonjia Kurosky, executive director of Samaritan Ministries.
Formed in 1981 as a program of Crisis Control Ministry, Samaritan Ministries began with the soup kitchen and then became a separate nonprofit in the mid-80s.
In 1988, with the support of downtown churches that had been providing shelter for homeless people on a rotating basis, Samaritan Ministries launched Samaritan Inn.
The 69-bed shelter, which operates near its capacity year-round and also serves dinner and breakfast to its residents, has provided nearly 615,000 nights of shelter since it opened, including 26,240 night of shelter in 2011 to 789 men.
And in 1995, Samaritan Ministries launched a long-term recovery program that has provided intensive case-management services to over 125 men recovering from substance abuse.
Operating with an annual budget of $900,000 and 19 employees, including 12 working full-time and seven working part-time, Samaritan Ministries receives 48 percent of its funds from contributions by individuals, 17 percent from churches, 9 percent from corporations, 8 percent from government grants, and the remainder from events or foundations.
The agency also generates revenue from an endowment of roughly $300,000 at the Winston-Salem Foundation, plus about $50,000 a year from an endowment created by through the estate of an anonymous donor.
Anne Rudert, development director at Samaritan Ministries, says the ailing economy has resulted in greater demand for the agency’s services, particularly for food.
“We have seen people in our kitchen we never saw before, people who lost a job, or elderly for whom Social Security is not enough,” she says, “not just the homeless needing food, but the working poor, people needing that extra little bit to bridge each month.”
Chaired by Paul Breitbach, retired executive vice president and chief financial officer at Krispy Kreme, the campaign is supported by consulting firm Whitney Jones Inc.
Increasing the size of the soup kitchen and shelter will allow the agency not only to feed and house more people but also will give it more time to better understand their needs, refer them to resources they can use, and collaborate with other agencies, Rudert says.
With a three-year grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem to the psychiatry department at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center , for example, Samaritan Ministries three years ago opened a mental-health clinic at its facility staffed by that psychiatry department that has provided psychiatrists, case management and free medication for 400 people.
The Trust recently awarded a new $900,000 grant to continue the program.
Those kinds of services increasingly are in demand for homeless people in an economic downturn, Rudert says.
“The poor are the first to be hit by a poor economy,” she says, “and the last to recover.”