Natchez Stewpot is answer to local hunger

Published 12:01 am Friday, December 2, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Volunteer Nathaniel Charles gives Rita Howard boxes of food during lunch time at the Stewpot Thursday afternoon on East Franklin Street.

Natchez — The mouthwatering smell of beef and rice smothered in brown gravy, collard greens and cornbread filled the air as patrons poured through the doors of the Stewpot Thursday for a hot lunch.

Cora Jones has been coming to the Stewpot every day for nearly 10 years and said the food is always delicious and the Stewpot is close to her heart.

“It means a lot to me,” she said. “It means I have something to eat, and I come up here every day. It’s just wonderful. I even help out in the kitchen when it gets really busy.”

Director Louis Gunning said the Stewpot prepares and serves an average of 260 meals a day, of which approximately 200 are delivered. Most meals go to elderly, sick and handicapped individuals.

The Stewpot received more donations than usual around Thanksgiving, Gunning said, and needs holiday donations to pick up the slack during summer months when there are fewer donations.

“We have a lot of donations this year, but it goes pretty quickly. All this will probably only last about three months,” Gunning said pointing to a small room stocked with food protected by a silver chain link fence.

The Stewpot building was recently renovated, and Gunning said the repairs depleted the Stewpot’s funds.

Stewpot costs have risen steadily over the years, Gunning said, and are at an all-time high. He said food and supplies cost at least 30 percent more than last year, and Stewpot’s weekly bills exceed weekly donations.

Cordell Wemberly said the Stewpot is the difference between him going hungry and having a hot meal. He said people should donate to Stewpot to make sure the community’s less fortunate always have a place to come get a meal.

“That’s the Lord’s way,” Wemberly said.

The Stewpot’s staff is very friendly, Wemberly said, and they generously give their time to serving the less fortunate.

David Lewis has been a volunteer at the Stewpot for 20 years and said serving others is his life’s mission.

“I just believe in helping people,” he said. “It gives you a feeling that money can’t buy.”

Volunteer Sandra Johnson said the Stewpot is one big family, and she said she enjoys giving people one of the most essential things in life.

“The most important gift you can give someone is to feed them,” she said. “If it wasn’t for the Stewpot, people would be lost and (without) food.”

Gunning said volunteers are also needed to deliver food. He said four routes are currently only temporarily filled.

Food donations can be taken to the Stewpot, located at 69 E. Franklin St., from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Monetary donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 298 (Natchez, Ms 39121).

For more information about the Stewpot, call Gunning at 601-442-2270.

Gunning said Natchez, especially the church community, has been very caring and supportive of Stewpot.

“We need such support to make it in 2012,” he said.