(T-G Photo by Jason Reynolds) [Order this photo]
Memphis Rudder said the Second Chances Free Food Kitchen could open by the end of January. State officials have finished processing her paperwork as a tax-exempt charity.
Having the paperwork from the state will allow her to submit paperwork with Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee so she can buy food at low prices to stock the shelves.
Rudder said she and a small group of volunteers have almost finished cleaning and preparing their site, the former Barefoot Bay Cafe restaurant on Sunlite Road behind the McDonald's on Madison Street.
While they will get their initial supply of food from Second Harvest, the process would benefit greatly from community donations of food items and money, she said. Until something changes, the pantry is nearly bare.
Ysel Urcid is one of those volunteers who helped clean the restaurant.
"I think it's something Bedford County can benefit from," she said.
Urcid is one of about six regular volunteers who has been helping prepare the site, Rudder said. She has about 50 volunteers in all, but most of those do not have any work to do until the charity actually opens. A number of church congregations that provide food boxes have expressed interest in working with Second Chances' food pantry once it opens, Rudder said.
Once the Second Chances food pantry opens and monetary donations come in to support the startup costs, the charity will expand and open a soup kitchen, Rudder said.
But until Second Chances can stock its pantry's shelves, there is only so much that can be done.
It's almost like the old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, Rudder said. While a number of people have shown interest in helping, much of that help will come after the charity's doors open, and she needs donations to help her open. Operating expenses, not including the cost for food, will be about $7,000 per month, she said, and will only increase once the soup kitchen opens.
The landlord who is leasing the cafe building to the charity is helping out by waiving the first few months of rent, Rudder said, but once the rent becomes due, the charity's expenses will increase.
"We're going to do the food pantry and soup kitchen different from what most people are used to," Rudder said. "Rather than just coming in and waiting in a doctor's office chair for your name to be called, we're going to have our intake center be at the bar area, so when people come in, we're going to serve them a nonalcoholic drink.
"They'll be able to wait together at the bar for their name to be called instead of just sitting in silence. I want it to be more of a community-friendly, open place, instead of people feeling ashamed for having to be where they're at."
Rudder said her philosophy is to treat people well in order to lift their spirits.
"People are already down when they come to a place like this, and I want to try to rejuvenate their spirits and uplift them so they don't feel worse about their situation," she said. "I want them to leave here feeling better."
Clients will sit down at a table and order from a menu, and a server will bring the food. Both the food pantry and the soup kitchen will emphasize healthy choices and will cater to needs like diabetic and gluten-free diets.
"We're going to cater to people's special needs," she said.
Several volunteers who will be cooking have received culinary training, and the meals will be "super good food," she said.
Members of the public will be welcome to dine at the soup kitchen for a donation of whatever amount they feel they can pay, said Rudder, who envisions Second Chances as a community gathering place.
Indeed, Second Chances will offer such community services as workshops on creating grocery shopping lists, cooking classes and resume writing workshops, she said.
People who volunteer their time there can use Second Chances as a reference in their efforts to find a job.
Since the building has a stage, Rudder said she hopes to provide a venue for youths' bands to perform, and she envisions providing a safe place for youths to hang out.
Eventually, Second Chances would operate a mobile food pantry that would deliver meals to people in rural areas who cannot drive to the Sunlite Road location, Rudder said.
Rudder began her experience with serving food to people in need through a mobile soup kitchen, she said.
Ten years ago, she and nine other volunteers took an old school bus on the road, touring the country and providing free, hot meals for homeless people and victims of natural disasters. She has been planning the Second Chance operation for five years, she said.
Bedford County needs more organizations like Second Chance, said Urcid, who added she once needed help getting food but had trouble finding a food pantry. She eventually received help from her family and friends.
"I felt maybe I could give back to the community and volunteer my time there so she (Rudder) can assist others who are in need," Urcid said.