LUMBERTON — The generosity of a woman at a downtown soup kitchen provides a menu of warm food, friendly smiles and prayer six days per week, helping the needy a single meal at a time.
My Refuge, a converted restaurant located at 2020 W. Fifth St., has been operated for about six months by Rosemarie Glenn, who serves about 30 meals a day to thankful patrons. The food served is purchased from donations by individuals, churches and organizations.
“We are a non-profit that provides food for the homeless, the poor and the underprivileged,” Glenn said. “We serve from the heart. We would like to share the love of the Lord. We meet the physical needs before the spiritual. We don’t offer a handout, we offer a hand-up.”
The mission statement of My Refuge is simple — to alleviate the pain and suffering that accompanies financial hardships.
“She donates her services for the needy on a regular basis,” City Councilman Leon Maynor said. “I think she is doing a wonderful job by addressing a major issue in the community. There’s always people in need and she is always there to help.”
Glenn said that by providing food, she hopes people will feel the love of Jesus as well as her generosity.
“We want them to come so they can sit and talk with us,” Glenn said. “We don’t offer a pulpit but we want people to know they are loved and cared for. As a Christian, if I don’t do this, I am not being a good person.”
Dinner begins at 4:30 p.m. and ends at 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and a lunch is served on Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.. Glenn prides herself on serving “healthy and well-balanced meals”.
“We’d like to help as many people as possible. Some people we serve receive food stamps but run out and need my help,” Glenn said. “I want to make sure that everyone can feed their families and find hope as well as a sense of purpose in life.”
“Her vision is so much bigger than this,” said Michael Longson, the pastor at Broad River Baptist Church in Orrum. “We’re trying to get churches and everyone involved. It starts here.”
Longson said that Glenn is a beacon of light for the needy people of Lumberton and he admires her vision to expand and eventually offer housing for homeless people.
“We’re sitting in a situation like the Great Depression,” Longson said. “All you can do is listen and help when you can and that’s exactly what she’s doing.”
The struggle to operate started from the very beginning and continues today.
“At first we needed money to buy the simplest things, like paper plates,” Glenn said. “Now that we’ve grown and have more support, we need more of everything.”
Glenn, who has a master’s degree in counseling, moved from Fayetteville and gave up substitute teaching to start My Refuge.
“Whether I have a degree or not,” Glenn said, “whether I have a house or not, whether I drive a Mercedes or not — I’m here to help, even if it costs me everything.”
Glenn said the satisfaction of helping someone in need is her reward.
“It’s the best thing in life,” Glenn said. “When you reach out your hand to others. When someone in need thanks me, it’s priceless. A thank you is the most gratifying experience possible.
“People are hurting. You’ll never really know how hurt they are,” Glenn said. “People are poor. You’ll never really know how poor they are. A simple hello and taking the time to talk to them and show them that you care is all people want. And because of the stigma of their situation, some people think they can’t contribute to society. We try to lift them up and propel them to greatness.”
My Refuge is one of two venues where the hungry are fed in downtown Lumberton.
The Lumberton Christian Care Center, located on First Street in a building that used to house the Goodyear Hotel, serves meals from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. During 2010, the center served more than 22,000 plates.
It also serves as a temporary shelter for the homeless.
In 2009, fire damaged the building, and the city of Lumberton is now working with the center to secure grant money to construct an 8,400-square-foot building at the corner of Elm and Second streets.
The center has been managed by Leroy Dixon for about 15 years.
“To me, working here is a blessing,” said Dixon. “I grew up in Robeson County, but I never realized how many people were hungry.”