In 2007, Jeff Bober began working at the Onslow Community Outreach Soup Kitchen and said he deeply enjoyed making and providing meals for people who needed it most. In January 2015, Bober was hired as the director of the soup kitchen and said he carried on much like those before him.
In a letter to the soup kitchen volunteers, Lourdes Garcia said, “His work here has left a profound impact on many lives too numerous to mention.” On Dec. 1, Garcia will take over as the new director of the soup kitchen when Bober steps down do to medical reasons. She believes she has big shoes to fill.
Bober said it’s the hard-working and dedicated volunteers who make the soup kitchen possible.
“I couldn’t do my job without them,” he said.
His focus in 2015 was ensuring the people who came through the soup kitchen doors were taken care of, Bober said. He picked up food donations, then sorted and put it all away in addition to keeping the kitchen clean.
Garcia will now take over these responsibilities and more. She began working at the soup kitchen in the early 2000s and became a paid employee in February 2014. She worked as a medical office assistant and Spanish translator for patients at the clinic as well as the program assistant at the soup kitchen.
Her journey to Onslow Community Outreach began when she was a bus driver, Garcia said. Others encouraged her to look into a medical degree to help as an interpreter, so she enrolled at Coastal Carolina Community College and earned her Medical Billing and Coding Certificate. For school-required volunteer hours, she went to the Onslow Community Outreach clinic. They asked her to stay, and she never left.
After a 15-day transitioning period, Garcia said she plans to implement more organization to “create and provide a safer and cleaner work environment.” She’ll also be working toward moving day when the current soup kitchen, located at 600 Court St. in downtown Jacksonville, will move into the old Piggly Wiggly at New River Shopping Center on Hargett Street. The new building will undergo about 12 months of renovations prior to the move, according to Bober.
One thing both Bober and Garcia agree on is how important and appreciated the soup kitchen volunteers are to both employees and the people they help.
“All we hear is ‘thank you, thank you, thank you,’” Garcia said.
Volunteers, she continued, show the community that people care. Bober agreed and spoke about the many people he’s met throughout his years at the soup kitchen. Everyone had something unique to offer, from plumbers to cooks to mechanics. As a thank-you to the regular volunteers – of which there are over 80 – Bober is planning to give them certificates and t-shirts.
Written by Amanda Thames for the Jacksonvile News