- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Veronica Haileyesus Bullock and Deanna Gerhart, both of Waldorf, are natural-born caregivers.
“We just like to help people,” Gerhart said. “It’s in our blood.”
They run the Thursday night soup kitchen at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Waldorf and have a vision of doing more.
They want to start a daily soup kitchen for homeless people in the county or those in need of a hot meal.
Bullock, along with her daughter, Aster, volunteered at a Silver Spring soup kitchen in the past and had a vision of starting a daily soup kitchen in Charles County.
Recently, she was going through a separation and her daughter was preparing to leave for college.
Bullock knew she couldn’t nurse the blues for long.
“I was having a hard time in my life,” she said. “I needed to focus on something positive.”
Looking to do more in the community and help those in need, she went to Health Partners, a nonprofit organization that provides medical care and services to uninsured and underinsured people in the county, to get some direction.
There, it was suggested that she check out Good Shepherd.
The church held a weekly congregation dinner on Wednesdays during the summer months, a dinner that some homeless people or those in need of a meal would visit — one family traveled by VanGo from Nanjemoy to attend the dinner, Gerhart said.
Bullock and Gerhart learned that the dinners were going to end and wanted to take them over, so they started Thursday dinners and have run them for the past four months.
Held from 5 to 6:30 p.m., the dinners usually serve about 25 to 40 people.
“We’ve got to start some place,” Gerhart said.
Now is the time to branch out, Bullock said.
“People don’t get hungry just once a week,” she said.
Bullock and Gerhart held an information meeting Jan. 26 in Waldorf, open to anyone who wanted to learn more about the idea, share information, volunteer their time or become board members as the organization starts the process to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit.
More than 40 people showed up. The meeting room at Waldorf West Library was overflowing, standing room only. Aster, 17, and Gerhart’s daughter, Alyssa, 9, helped out.
The turnout was a welcome surprise to Bullock and Gerhart.
“You can see the door is opening,” Bullock said.
“Greatness breeds greatness,” said Dawn Steis, a friend of Gerhart’s and Bullock’s who is interested in helping. “If we want to be a great county, we have to do great things. We’re not just feeding a stomach, you’re feeding hope.”
Bullock and Gerhart are hoping to spread the word to community members, business owners, corporations and nonprofits but are gathering information for now — learning the pros and cons, how to avoid the pitfalls and what to focus on to be successful.
Bullock is really looking for board members; 12 seems like a good number for now, and she doesn’t think volunteers would have to commit more than two or three hours a month.
After Saturday’s meeting, they started receiving emails and calls from people who want to volunteer any way they can.
“Nothing is too small or too big for us,” Bullock said.
Another meeting is scheduled for Feb. 23 at the library in a bigger meeting room, and Bullock and Gerhart hope for the same stunning turnout or more.
“I like that she has a vision for a longer term,” said Dave Dickshinski, who attended the meeting with his wife, Elinor.
The couple and Allison Saint, a friend from church, said they are going to share the information about the effort with the congregation at the Garage Church in La Plata.
Friends Nancy Dove of Waldorf and Dorothy Pikulski of La Plata volunteer at Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School on Fridays, packing meals for needy kids to have over the weekends.
They think a daily soup kitchen in the county would help fill a need in the community.
Dove said she used to associate soup kitchens with Thanksgiving or Christmas.
“Everybody responds at the holidays,” Pikulski said. “We need [a soup kitchen] all year long.”