When Katrina Dorsey began going to the Anniston Soup Bowl with her mother in 2015, she never imagined she would become the director.
“I had been coming here because my mom had been coming here and eating forever,” Dorsey said. “They all knew her.”
Dorsey resigned from work in higher education to move back home and care for her mother, who was suffering from a chronic illness.
Her mother had been coming to the Anniston Soup Bowl since her retirement in 2006, Dorsey said.
“My mom recently passed on June 16, but if she hadn’t she would still be coming,” she said.
Through the relationships she built while bringing her mother for lunch, Dorsey learned of the director position opening and got the job in September 2018.
“I knew the people who worked here, and somebody told me that the director was retiring, and I met with her, talked about what she did here, talked about what my previous work had been,” Dorsey said. “I gave her my resume, and that’s kind of how I became director here.”
Almost a year later, Dorsey said the position has been a learning experience, which taught her more about accountability.
“I had to handle learning QuickBooks and how it works, being the person responsible for communicating to people about the budget and recruiting donors, contacting people for repairs that need to be made,” she said. “It’s definitely hands-on, and I’m good with that.”
‘Awesome’ support for Soup Bowl
Dorsey said she has been most impressed with the contributions of people and organizations in Anniston.
“The faith-based community, and definitely in Anniston, whether they have 25 members or 2,500 members, donate, whether they donate food, money or time,” she said. “Before I started working here, I didn’t know that, so it’s definitely pretty awesome to see them putting their time in and doing God’s work and serving God’s people.”
Dorsey said she was surprised at the number of people who want to donate their time to serve the hungry, especially because it is difficult to rearrange their schedules.
“What has caught me off guard is that the more people that find out about us, the more they want to serve,” she said. “One of the hardest things to do is to fit something new into your already involved life. But once they fit it in, they continue to come back.”
Almost 40 local organizations send volunteers to serve at the Soup Bowl, including churches, civic organizations, Greek organizations and schools. Dorsey said the number of volunteers continues to increase.
“If you just listen to the noise about the city of Anniston, whether that’s hearing the city council or hearing other towns or other people talk about Anniston in such negative ways, you don’t know that the good things happen,” Dorsey said.
“The Anniston Soup Bowl is a good thing that happens in Anniston that is supported by Annistonians, people who actually live in Anniston, whose addresses and zip codes are in Anniston.”
Some of the volunteers have been serving at the Soup Bowl for five or more years, she said.
“These are people who are retired and still want to give back,” Dorsey said. “That doesn’t surprise me, but I’m so appreciative of everybody because one of the hardest things to do is donate time.”
It’s about more than food
Dorsey said the people who come to the soup bowl have formed a community where conversations fill the air.
“Events of the day get into the conversation, and they talk about what’s in the news and what’s not in the news, to politics and football,” she said. “Those conversations cover the gambit. It’s just a natural conversation from people who come in here, and that warms my heart because it is a community.”
Dorsey said her mother enjoyed coming to the Anniston Soup Bowl, not just to eat, but also for the socialization and conversation. It is taking time to inform that extended community of her mother’s death.
“I knew I was going to have to relive this every day for a little while until all of them know, because everyone doesn’t come every day,” she said. “Even with the volunteers, they come maybe once a month and a number of them knew her. I am appreciative because, in her words, they showed her love. And she loved this community.”
A desire to feed more people
Dorsey said she would like to see the Anniston Soup Bowl’s reach expand in the community in the coming years.
The soup bowl currently feeds meals Monday through Friday, but Dorsey said creating relationships with other groups could expand that service.
“I’d like to create partnerships with churches that feed the working poor, the homeless, the transients, the elderly, the physically challenged, the retired,” she said. “There are some churches that feed on Saturdays, and I met a group recently that feeds on Sundays. If we could advertise that, the people of Calhoun County who are hungry could get food seven days a week.”
Dorsey said another goal is to add more stations throughout Anniston for people who do not have transportation to access food.
“Right now, people have to come here to eat,” she said. “In my dream of dreams, I would like to have, in the four corners of Anniston, locations where that group of people I described could come eat. If we were able to do that, we could feed more people, because right now we are only serving around 700 meals a week.”