The Sweet Life Fellowship religious organization, which offers the food on Sunday afternoons, has been told to cease using the headquarters in Mount Airy by the end of March.
It has been operating the program for about a year, first at facilities of the Faith and Hope group, and later at the GOP building on North Renfro Street. Republican officials allowed the Sweet Life Fellowship to use its site, near McDonald’s in the former Lowes Foods shopping center, after Faith and Hope shut down.
But now the fellowship is scrambling for another location for the meals, due to a recent decision by the GOP leadership.
“They’re rather political,” Dave Irby of Mount Airy, present chairman of the Surry County Republican Party, said Wednesday of those involved with the food effort.
“Christianity is one thing — being political is another,” added Irby, who did not cite any particular examples of the community meals program attempting to influence recipients in a partisan political manner.
But, Irby said, “We have too much adversity in our society, in my opinion.”
“We all need to get along in this world.”
The reason given by Irby came as news Wednesday to Darin Moser, who heads the Sweet Life Fellowship and its meals effort with his wife Angie.
“That’s the first time I’ve heard about anything like that,” Moser said. “My response is that it’s totally out of the blue ... Nothing like that has ever been conveyed to us.”
Moser, who considers himself a conservative, mirroring the philosophy of many Republicans, said the goal of the charitable effort has been simply to provide hot meals to those in need. “It’s not like we’re up here lobbying or anything like that.”
There has been no political content at the gatherings, except for maybe “some random errant conversation here or there,” Moser said. “I don’t know where that could possibly come from, that’s totally from left field,” he said of Irby’s comments.
Except for monitoring the first couple of meal events, no Republican officials have been there on Sundays to “darken the door” and see firsthand what happens, Moser said. “They were invited, but nobody ever came.”
Irby said the GOP wanted to give Sweet Life Fellowship ample notice to find a new location for its community meals.
“We felt it was better for all that we give them a two-week notice and go from there,” he said. “I think we should have an amiable separation there.”
Despite his reaction to Irby’s comments, Moser had words of praise for the help provided by Surry Republicans. “We also want to say that we appreciate the use of the building.”
New Site Sought
Regardless of the reasons, the decision by Republican Party officials has left the meals program with a glaring need. “We’re looking for a location,” Moser said.
About 40 to 50 people sometimes show up for the meal offered on Sundays at 3 p.m. “And it’s grown quite a lot,” Moser said.
It is provided with the help of donations from different people in the fellowship and another church that contributes to the cause. On a recent Sunday, the menu consisted of baked ziti, garlic bread, a salad and dessert.
“My wife has actually gotten very good at making a hearty meal under a budget,” Moser said.
The food is prepared off-site and brought to the GOP headquarters for serving, which means no electricity is used for cooking and only a negligible amount for lighting.
Moser said it would be good if a potential new location contains tables and chairs for serving the meals, since the fellowship lacks them. “It doesn’t have to be that large of a room.”
There is a possibility another agency will come to the aid of the Sweet Life Fellowship’s community meals program, the Greater Mount Airy Ministry of Hospitality. It operates a local domestic-violence shelter.
Moser has been in touch with Phil Goble Jr., that organization’s executive director, which has led to exploring a plan for combining similar soup kitchen or meals programs serving this area’s poor.
Each seems to have a different serving schedule and Moser said the concept envisioned by Goble would allow the different groups to “pull together” and become more organizing in their mutual mission of feeding those in need.
Moser said Goble has been seeking a location for this to occur.
When contacted, Goble reported that nothing along those lines has been finalized so far.
Contact Tom Joyce at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1924.