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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Despite obstacles, Swagerty works to ‘feed the people’


Over just the past several years, Geraldine Swagerty has provided dinner to enough folks to equal the population of the city of Kingsport. But since she’s been at it for about a dozen years, likely she’s fed enough people to equal the population of Knoxville.

And not one of them paid a dime for any meal.

Swagerty is pastor at Full Gospel Mission Church and Kingsport’s saint to the hungry. In 2001, she felt led by the Lord to “feed the people,” and with less than $200, money she had carefully saved even while her husband was ill, she set up a kitchen in the church basement and opened the doors for anyone needing a meal.

When the money and the food ran out, somehow, someway, she made do. She borrowed, she asked for help, she sent letters to this newspaper, and the Lord always provided. 
It’s called Kitchen of Hope, and if you need something to eat between 3:30 and 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, you need only stop by. There’s no menu, because Geraldine never knows what’s going to be served. That depends on those who give, not just food or cash, but their time.

She can’t do it alone — though many times, she has. But there are a handful of volunteers who also see the need, and they have answered the call to be of use to their fellow man. They help Geraldine out as best they can.

As Geraldine points out, there are a lot of folks in need. “Hunger is a big problem in Kingsport. We see older people. We see children. They don’t have anything. They need us,” Swagerty said.

But they also need you.

Kitchen of Hope depends solely on donations and is facing another of those times when there are more hungry people than usual, but fewer donations — and volunteers — to meet that need. That’s the only thing that gets in Swagerty’s way. She refuses to allow her own health problems, or these occasional downturns, to end this mission.

“If people weren’t so generous, I couldn’t do this,” she said. “I don’t take credit for what has been done. If Kingsport’s volunteers hadn’t come together to help, we sure couldn’t have done this.” Swagerty believes the Lord will provide, as He always has.

Swagerty makes every penny count. She searches for the sales at grocery stores, and when there’s money, she buys supplies in bulk. And especially this time of year as folks are harvesting their gardens and canning their produce, she’s ready with a blessing for any who stop by with whatever they can provide. “We take anything edible,” she said, laughing. “We’re not picky. We appreciate anything they might have extra of and will share with us.”

If you can help, please mail contributions to Kitchen of Hope, c/o Full Gospel Mission, 740 E. Sevier Ave., Kingsport, TN 37660. Better yet, stop by. If you’re out grocery shopping, fill up an extra bag and drop it off.