So we had our volunteer banquet at the soup kitchen last night. We being Daily Bread Ministries. The Memorial Methodist Social Hall was packed with volunteers. I am amazed how far we have come since July 8th 1990 when The Greer Soup Kitchen served the first meal. Years later we started STEP (Shelter To Empower People) and now our 5 tiny homes that will be built this year. All this because of a man in a trash can.
I have always been one who believes that as the Holy Scriptures states in Matthew 6:1, “Take heed that you not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” As I write this I do not want this to come across as someone looking for a reward, for that is not the case. I have been involved with Daily Bread Ministries since it’s inception in 1990. I actually named the organization.
Over the years I have had people come to me about the history of DBM, how it began and for the reasons stated above I have been hesitant to really talk about how we started. I look now and its hard to believe we are going on our 30th year. Time is flying by and I have come to the decision that I need to tell the story because it is a, what I think a God story.
Sunday March 5,1990 is the day my life was changed forever. I was living in Greer at the time and I remember it like it was yesterday. My Tar Heels had just beaten the Dookies 87-75. King Rice dropped in 20, Rick Fox 16…never mind. I walked out on my front stoop to get the newspaper and heard a noise at my trash can that was at the end of the road. There was a man in a green army coat, blue jeans, baseball cap holding a stick with a nail in it rummaging, looking for food. I didn’t say a word to him, just went back in the house and started reading about “The Heels” but I could not relish in my victory because of the man in my trash. I went to my window in my bedroom and looked at him digging around so I made a pit stop and then walked to my front door speak to him and he was gone. I can remember wondering where he went because there was not a trace. The next day I rode over to Greer Relief the to find out where the soup kitchen was so I could tell this man at my trash can. Surely I would see him walking around and I could let him know. I met with Evelyn Redmon who was over Greer Relief at the time. She informed me that there wasn’t a soup kitchen in Greer and told me how desperately one was needed. I knew one man who needed one. She gave me a name of a guy who had tried to drum up interest in a soup kitchen 2 years previously but no one was interested. So I called Mr. Merle State and we met that day. Merle was a guy who I never met but knew all my life. A World War II vet from Iowa.
To this day Merle was the only person I had ever met from Iowa. I told him what had happened the day before and he went on to tell me that this was a God thing. I told him it was just a man digging in my trash. We met several times over the next few months. Merle got a few interested in his church. We put out fliers in shopping centers, spoke to Greer leaders and met at Memorial United Methodist Church to gage interest in the community. I remember being pleasantly surprised at the turnout. We met several more times and we were told that the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 39 had agreed to let us use there building in downtown Greer. So on July 8th 1990 much to the chagrin of merchants in downtown Greer we served our first and only meal of that day. Yep, 1 meal. That is all that showed up. It will get better Merle assured me. The next day nobody showed up…zero….. By the end of the week I think we had 5. There was one guy missing. Trash can guy was nowhere to be found. Things picked up, word got out on the streets and we were in business. Bagged lunches for everybody. We made the lunches at First Presbyterian, got ice from the Greer FD and food from wherever we could get it but people were getting fed. We stayed at the DAV for several years and then we moved to a old Boy Scout hut behind New Jerusalem Baptist Church that we rented for a dollar a year. We stayed there until we moved into our present facility at 521 East Poinsett Street where we now feed 120-150 per day. We are not affiliated with any church. Daily Bread Ministries is a group of people who knows that maybe they can’t change the world but they can make a difference in our little corner of it.
As I said that day in March 1990 ultimately changed my life. That day set in motion events that I never would imagine. I always considered myself a Christian guy. Prayed occasionally, went to church. That sort of a Christian. I had faith but maybe not Merle State faith. That changed with the soup kitchen. I witnessed truly miracles countless times. So many times running out of food and pizza man walk in with a big plastic bag of pizzas or the Lion’s Club bringing leftover hotdogs from the Greer football game when we had just run out of food. People literally walking in off the streets with food when we started up. We truly expected miracles and we would experience them. My faith grew expedientially because of the soup kitchen. I also got to know my future wife at the soup kitchen. We were friends before marriage but she had went through a bad relationship so to try to forget about that loser I told her she should volunteer. She did and loved it. I am very thankful she did.
We had another volunteer meet his future wife at the soup kitchen. She had gone through a abusive relationship and was a client.
Merle has since passed but he is still a big part of Daily Bread Ministries. His legacy will live on. We have since started STEP which is housing of those who are homeless and truly want to change their life. That is something Merle wanted badly. I’m sure he is smiling.
So there is the history of this ministry. We have been blessed beyond measure. Hopefully we will eventually be put out of business.
Just a footnote. I searched Greer for a long time to try to find trash can man. I never saw him again. I thought and still do think about him on occasion. I have always wondered if………could he have been???????