After three decades in its current facility, Samaritan Ministries is finally getting some new digs.
The Ministry plans to break ground on a new 20,000-square-foot building at the corner of Northwest Boulevard and Ivy Avenue in May, officials announced this week. The new building will be adjacent to its current structure, which sits at the corner of Patterson Avenue and Northwest Boulevard. The 12,000 square feet structure is believed to be nearly 80-years-old.
Samaritan Ministries’ soup kitchen, which started in 1981, and its shelter, which was added in 1988, have been bursting at the seams for years, according to Executive Director Sonjia Kurosky.
“That increase in space is really going to help us, not only with adding a few additional beds, but also our dining room and our kitchen and our storage space. It’s a lot bigger,” Kurosky said. “…We identified this need quite a few years ago, it was just a matter of how we were going to pay for it.”
The soup kitchen has seen the largest increase in demand. Volunteers serve around 400 people in the 47 seat dining room in a two-and-a-half hour period each day, forcing a change in the atmosphere that is troubling to Kurosky and others.
“We had sort of turned into a fast food soup kitchen, which we didn’t like,” said Kurosky. “We want to have a ministry of hospitality where people feel welcomed and unhurried, and we haven’t been able to maintain that kind of atmosphere.”
Soup Kitchen Manager Cathie Strader said the soup kitchen’s record was 489 meals served in one afternoon, and 454 were doled out during the lunch hour on Monday. The average attendance is more than double what it was when Strader came to the soup kitchen 14 years ago, she said.
“We used to know practically everybody that ate here and now that’s not the case. We see new faces everyday, and I think it’s got a lot to do with the economy,” she related. “We have people who come through who say they used to contribute to Samaritan and now they have to eat here.”
Even though the serving times have been extended by half an hour, Strader says she sometimes has to ask guests to leave the dining room to make room for others. It is a practice she would prefer to leave behind.
The new dining room will have 96 seats, which will expand the amount of time each guest can spend at the table from an average of 15-20 minutes to 30-40 minutes, Strader said. The kitchen, which churns out hundreds of meals a day (breakfast and dinner to overnight guests, lunch to the general public), will also be significantly larger, with ample shelving, a preparation area and a storage area all in one place, a far cry from the current structure, where each occupies a different area of the building.
“The whole building is going to make a lot more sense. It’s not going to be a 100 year-old building that we’ve added to three or four times,” Strader said. “It’s just going to be much nicer.”
The new facility will sport 11 new beds, additional restrooms, cubbies in the dining room where guests can store their belongings, a sweeping driveway to enable easy food dropoff and delivery, and more parking for staff and volunteers, Strader said.
“We’re very excited. We’re just blessed that we’re going to be in this wonderful new building,” she remarked. “…We’re the only soup kitchen in Winston-Salem or Forsyth County that serves 365 days a year, and we just feel blessed that we’re able to do that.”
Kurosky said she hopes the need for Samaritan’s services will begin to trend in the opposite direction.
“We are very, very hopeful that we’ll be able to work in cooperation with the mayor’s Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness and perhaps in years to come the number of emergency shelter beds will get to be reduced,” she said.
The shelter, which currently houses a longterm substance abuse treatment facility and a mental health clinic operated in collaboration with Wake Forest Baptist Department of Psychiatry, will have the ability to offer services that were never available before, Kurosky said.
“We’ve identified four beds and a section of the shelter that’s going to be sort of like the healing room so anybody who’s sick is going to be able to stay in through the day, which is really critical,” she explained. “…It’s not respite care, but it’s just people who are too sick to be turned out at 7:30 in the morning.”
The ministry has managed to amass $3.6 million of its $3.8 million goal during the quiet phase of its fundraising campaign, which began in 2011. BB&T contributed a lead gift of $250,00 for the project, and other organizations – such as the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the Winston-Salem Foundation – followed suit, Kurosky said. The Princeton, NJ native said she is grateful for the support the ministry has received thus far.
“The giving spirit has been really remarkable,” she declared. “What a blessing it is for us to live in such a caring community where people really, really do care about people who are in need. I just think it makes this a better place for all of us to live.”
Kurosky said officials are hopeful they will be able to sell the old building.
For more information about Samaritan Ministries, visit www.samaritanforsyth.org or call 336-748-1962.