Denise Benson will celebrate four years of volunteering at Isaiah’s Soup Kitchen in November, she said Thursday.
While preparing to serve chicken and pasta for lunch, she laughed, “I just like making people happy because happy people make me happy.”
Mike Stone, president of the Isaiah’s Soup Kitchen board of directors, said Benson’s tenure is special and she seems to especially enjoy volunteering her service.
The soup kitchen, having begun its second quarter century of operation, serves about 2,000 plates per month, in addition to giving away food boxes and donated clothing.
Even though there’s plenty of food available, Stone said, the end of summer normally means the budget gets tight because cash is short.
“Due to people starting their kids in school and other things going on towards the end of summer, people don’t donate as much as they usually do,” Stone said. “So, August and September are really tough months for us when it comes to donations.”
Paying such bills as electricity and salaries for the small four-person staff takes a little more cash.
“A lot of the people, because the economy is doing so good right now, assume everybody is doing great. But there’s a core of the population that’s on disability, whether it’s for mental issues or for physical issues,” Stone said. “Then you have people on fixed incomes like Social Security and they’re not making enough money to feed their own families. That’s the core of the people we feed.”
Stone himself has significant experience with the nonprofit soup kitchen. As an officer in the Hobbs Police Department, he first became involved with the organization about 16 years ago and has served as president of the board for around 12 years.
Stone retired from the police department last year.
Back on the concerns of Isaiah’s Soup Kitchen, Stone said, “The summer months are really tough. People think about a place like Isaiah’s when it’s a holiday season, but when you’re getting close to the end of summer, you’re looking at nine months into the year from Christmas. We’re trying to make ends meet that whole time to feed that many people.”
The soup kitchen receives less than half its budget from United Way, normally around November, then about $10,000 each from the City of Hobbs and Lea County, and the rest from private and corporate donations.
The organization owns the property and building at 304 W. Harden Blvd. where volunteers and employees serve breakfast to about 40 people and lunch to at least 60 people every day, plus distribute food boxes to more than 100 people per month and offer donated clothes for take-out as desired.
Stone said, “We own the whole place. There are no payments on the building, but we have electricity, employees and one vehicle. So, we pay insurance on the company vehicle.”
The facility is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Extra plates are provided on Friday to help clients make it through the weekend.
Benson, still grinning widely while serving lunch and greeting each client cheerfully, usually by name, said she recently urged a regular client (“one of my girls”) to smile because when she smiles, others will smile back.
Expressing appreciation to the community for supporting Isaiah’s Soup Kitchen, Stone looks forward to smiling more if enough donations come in soon to help the organization survive this month and the next.
For more information, or to donate, contact Stone at 575-441-3793 or Director Renee Madron at 575-631-2220.