Livingstone culinary students host homeless for meal

Published 12:10 am Sunday, January 15, 2023

SALISBURY — Many remember the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his advocacy of civil rights for Black Americans, but he also pledged commitment to serving his fellow man. On Friday, Livingstone College culinary students honored King’s legacy by feeding area homeless at the Salisbury Civic Center.

Under the leadership of chefs Elizabeth Marquez and Carl Brown, Livingstone College culinary arts students gave away 41 packaged lunch boxes of turkey and cheddar sandwiches, roast beef and Swiss sandwiches, cookies, chips, fruit and water. They also served homemade chicken noodle soup with crackers.

Livingstone College senior Tionna Reed explained that the engagement provided more than just an opportunity to practice meal prep. For her, the most rewarding element of the Friday event was conversing with many people from various backstories.

“We aren’t going to call them needy or homeless because everybody has a different story,” Reed said. “Being able to give back to anyone is heartwarming for us. We never know what situation someone might be in, but being able to contribute by giving to them is just an awesome feeling.”

Junior social work major Shawnae Robertson added, “This is really a big learning experience for me, being able to help and do God’s work. I just helped a lady take her food to her car, and she had a child inside. It hurts, but it’s good I could help contribute to her and her child.”

Connie Woodbury shares Reed’s and Robertson’s views.

“When the wintertime comes, that is the time when people really need something, especially when people are homeless,” Woodberry said. “I think this is great what we are doing.”

Woodbury is not a typical college student. She’s 64.

“I don’t have to tell you I am about the oldest one in here,” Woodbury said.

After retiring from a position at the Salisbury VA and losing her husband and son, Woodbury decided it was time to return to school.

“I always tell people you’re never too old to go back to school,” Woodbury said.

Woodbury hopes to turn her culinary degree into a teaching career after graduation. Meanwhile, Reed wants to open a community center with a soup kitchen.

According to Brenda Mitchell, the director of career services and professional development at Livingstone College, events like the one on Friday are a way for the students to hone their craft while also making an impact.

“Our culinary arts program is a very good program,” Mitchell said. “It gives the students hands-on experience on what they need to do in order to prepare for the workforce, whether they are working at a hospital, hotel or a restaurant or even pursuing entrepreneurship.”

The culinary arts program is a two-year program, but Mitchell indicated that students often combine it with hospitality and management, which makes it a four-year program.

Mitchell sees much potential for so many students soon to be entering the workforce.

“With how the pandemic has impacted everyone, there are opportunities out there,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully, some of our students will take advantage of those opportunities where others aren’t.”

The event was in partnership with the Salisbury Police Department’s victims/homeless program, in which Dennis Rivers is the program liaison.

“We reached people, but the goal is to reach more,” Rivers said. “We made an impact because if we feed one, that’s one less hungry person. We will continue collaborating with Livingstone College and Rowan Helping Ministries to tackle homelessness.”

Each person who visited the event also received a bag filled with hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other personal hygiene items. The NC Counts Coalition, a nonprofit organization, was there, distributing bags filled with hats, gloves, hand warmers and COVID-19 tests.

Robert Cox was on the receiving end of a packed bag of personal items. Cox lives on the street, so every day is a hustle for essentials most people take for granted.

“Where do I stay? Wherever I can lay my head?” Cox said. “I’m not alone. You got so many homeless people out here. You would be surprised how many homeless people there are out here.”

Cox doesn’t suffer any shortage of resilience or compassion.

“I can survive,” Cox said. “A lot of people don’t. That is what hurts my heart.”

The 69-year-old indicated that he had been in Salisbury since he was five. However, his homelessness is only just a recent occurrence for him.

According to Cox, he’s been out on the streets since last April.

“I do what I have to do to survive,” Cox said. “Things like this help a lot, though. I got something to eat. I’ll have all I need when I find a place I can cover up.”