Contact: Randy Neal
People say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but the Sonshine Soup Kitchen in Crossville has been busy proving the old adage wrong.
Randy Neal, John Short, and David Yoder (now deceased) started the free lunch program on April 1, 2009 shortly after the economy began to decline. Everyone can use a bit of assistance, so the three men figured a free lunch one day a week would be a good way to help out. It didn’t matter the income level of the people who showed up.
The Sonshine Soup Kitchen serves a free lunch every Wednesday from 12-1 p.m. at 69 Neecham Street next door to Crossville’s First United Methodist Church.
“My main reason for doing it is for the volunteers, so they can have the experience of serving others. Jesus called upon us to serve others. Another big part of the reason we do it is so people can enjoy fellowship and a meal,” said Randy Neal.
Although the program is Christian and faith-based, everyone is welcome to attend. There is no registration or additional questions for guests. Some guests have attended since Sonshine Soup Kitchen first opened while many have only been one time. There is an opening prayer at noon, but no devotions, lessons, or programs.
The Sonshine Soup Kitchen is a partnership ministry and has worked with several of the United Methodist Churches in the area over the years along with many faithful, generous individuals of Cumberland County. The churches and several individuals supply the food and financial donations that keep the program running.
Each Wednesday the volunteers serve everyone from the homeless, unemployed, underemployed, retired, or people who can’t make ends meet, as well as those who are working in town and would like to enjoy a free meal. Hospitality, friendship, and comfort are extended to all guests. Sonshine diners have shared birthdays, anniversaries, relocations, and even deaths of guests and volunteers.
The meal usually consists of a sandwich, soup, salad, chips, and a dessert. Meals vary depending on what is available. Volunteers prepare the meal fresh weekly. Currently, volunteers come from the local United Methodist, Baptist, and Catholic churches.
There are always enough volunteers and Sonshine Soup Kitchen has never been closed due to weather or holidays. Once a month, the group provides 100 lunches to the Peavine Care Center in Crossville. Neal delivers the lunch and shares a devotional with the clients. For several years the group provided a dinner on Wednesday evenings to the Hispanic congregation at the Crossville First United Methodist Church and at times have provided lunch for Bible study groups at the church.
“We participate in the Holy week Wednesday lunch at Crossville FUMC,” said Neal. “And each spring the Sonshine Soup Kitchen provides lunch for the volunteers at the weeklong rummage sale held at Fairfield Glade UMC. We help in the community where and when we can. One of our favorite things is participating in the annual ‘Lunch on the Lawn’ benefitting Habitat for Humanity. And a few years ago, we even traveled 120 miles to provide the lunch for the Laity at the Tennessee Annual Conference.”
Sonshine Soup Kitchen has used all types of advertising to draw people in, but the most effective is word of mouth and walking the streets and meeting people. They have advertised through area food pantries, resale and thrift shops, dry cleaners, and churches. They also put up door hangers at area motels. Law enforcement authorities and social services people spread the word as well.
Randy Neal is available to share with churches how Sonshine ministry got started, including menu suggestions, supplies, financing, and why we should help the least of these. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (931) 200-4257.