By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
Working in a soup kitchen is not something 16-year-old Addie Williams pictured herself doing. However, since volunteering with the Salvation Army, she has learned the value of helping others, she said.
Tabitha Barrett, 17, said the experience “helps you learn what real life is like” through talking with the clients who visit.
“You get more out of volunteering than you think,” said Tabitha, who has made friends during her time in the kitchen and has learned how to work well with others.
Over the past four years, students from Madison Central High School have been volunteering at local charity organizations through the Success Academy.
The Success Academy is a branch of Focus to Finish, a program geared toward students who are struggling academically, have behavioral issues or are simply disenchanted with school. The Success Academy develops students’ basic work-readiness skills, said Lynn Petrey, teacher and job coach for the Success Academy.
Every Monday and Friday, between six to eight students are bussed to the Salvation Army (located on East Main Street) to help out in the kitchen by cooking, plating the food and cleaning up.
Each student is required to attain a food handler’s card, which can be used for employment at any restaurant, said Libby Edmonson, a para-professional and job coach with the Academy.
The volunteer work also is something the students can put on their resume and the experience “has been a real eye-opener for some of the students,” Edmonson said.
In the past, students have volunteered at God’s Outreach, Light of Christ Ministry and Open Concern. Some students also have worked in the cafeteria and linen room at Baptist Health in Richmond.
This is the first year the Academy has partnered with the Salvation Army, Petrey said.
Having the students in the kitchen have been good for the clients “but it’s been good for the students too,” said Sandy Bonar, a coordinator at the soup kitchen through the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary. Members of the Episcopal Church of Our Savior also volunteer regularly at the kitchen.
The Success Academy students are “very helpful” with kitchen duties, she said, and she hopes they will “develop a service mentality” that will continue on through adulthood.
The soup kitchen, open Mondays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., usually serves between 30 and 50 people.
“We truly serve those in need,” Bonar said. “There is more poverty in Madison County than people realize.”
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.