Resource Library

So All May Eat…and More!

The following story is part of Lake Institute’s story collection, The Faithful Generosity Story Shelf, which highlights congregations and other religious organizations who have sought to use their assets and resources in creative—and sometimes surprising—ways as an expression of faithful giving.

Each entry in our Story Shelf is short enough to be read and discussed during a committee meeting or other group gathering. Our hope is that these accessible vignettes will spark new questions, conversation, and imagination among clergy and laity about what might be possible with the funds, buildings, land, and other resources in their care.

Photo of racks of clothing in front of Hampton Baptist Church.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hampton Baptist moved many of SAME’s offerings - such as the clothing closet pictured above - outdoors. Photo from CBFBlog.com.

This story has been edited for brevity by Bo Prosser. The original story was written by Daniel Potter and appeared on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship blog. You can read the original story on cbfblog.com.

Back in the 1960s, Hampton Baptist Church started a soup kitchen to serve the food insecure community of Hampton, VA. After more than 50 years, organizers wanted to show that the program had also done some changing.

In 2015, the soup kitchen changed its name to SAME, an acronym meaning “So All May Eat.” It began changing into an organization concerned with much more than one hot meal every week.

The complimentary Monday meal is still the center piece of what they do; but it laid the foundation for a place where people could visit to feel welcome, cared for and lifted up on both sides of the buffet line.

It now includes a clothing closet that invites community members to shop, boutique-style, for clothing and accessories. Clients make their own style choices or can ask for assistance.

A monthly mobile food pantry also lets families pick out the groceries they want.  In partnership with the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, they include a delivery service for those who don’t have transportation.

“When we rebranded, we wanted to try to be more inclusive of people, and help them feel less patronized,” said Amy Witcover-Sandford, coordinator for SAME. “We wanted to step away from the idea that you visit a soup kitchen and get whatever they put on your plate to more of a welcoming place.”

“We care about sharing Jesus with people,” added Andrew Garnett, pastor of Hampton Baptist Church. “But we have an understanding that the Gospel is about more than that. It’s about the whole person.” 

The handful of volunteers from which SAME originated has grown well into double digits including volunteers from the community. Youth groups from the area, local businesses, and civic organizations have helped to make an even bigger impact for the people in this community. All volunteers share in one accord remembering that people need to eat and to be treated with dignity, respect, and love.

SAME is doing more than just feeding others.  People to come for lunch, shop for clothes, and sign up for groceries. And, people can also register to vote, meet with the health department or social services, get help with transportation issues and more.  In 2021, volunteers helped nearly 1,000 different people, serving more than 4,000 lunches, giving away more than 6,000 articles of clothing, and delivering enough groceries for families to cook 16,000 meals.

Hampton Baptist is making a difference not only in the guests but also in the church members.  The church is challenging its members, giving them something that stretches their mindset and gives them a point of pride in their ministry.

SAME is now a place where people with different ethnicities, backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, are in community sharing, growing, making a difference.  This is a powerful witness to what society could be when everyone sets asides differences and work for common good for everyone.

DATE: July 15, 2022
TOPIC: Organizational Leadership
TYPE: Story/Case Study
SOURCE: Faithful Generosity Story Shelf
KEYWORDS: Charity
AUTHOR: Bo Prosser, Daniel Potter