The religious community service will hold a block party to celebrate its 40th anniversary

More than forty years have passed since Sister Angela Mary Parker made it her mission to feed the hungry by serving soup from the back of her station wagon in 1982.

The following year, a group of about 30 parishioners met with Dr. William Hunt and Sister Parker at Christ Episcopal Church to discuss the need for such service in the community. During the meeting, the group decided to include other churches in the area.

The first soup kitchen officially opened on November 5, 1984 in the basement of the Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, located at 720 Bern St. in New Bern.

From that humble beginning, the New Bern Soup Kitchen grew and grew into Religious community servicesa faith-based organization that meets the basic needs of the community by providing food, clothing and shelter to those in need.

On August 19, 1985, RCS opened its first free-standing building. Sister Mary Angela Parker was its first director.

New Bern Religious Community Services celebrates the $1.5 million reconfiguration of its George Street complex with a virtual groundbreaking ceremony and Facebook live tour in New Bern on September 17, 2020. Zeb Hough, Director New Bern SCN Executive, speaks at the SCN Inauguration and Tour event.  The virtual tour included views of the modernized cafeteria, food supply warehouse, clothing facility, and equipped shelter for families and veterans.  New Bern Religious Community Services has been providing food, shelter and other basic needs to help the needy and homeless locally since 1982.

To commemorate its 40th year of service to the community, a block party will be held on August 13 at its offices at 919 George St.

Zeb Hough, Executive Director of RCS, said 40 years is a milestone for the organization and for the community.

“To think that 40 years ago, in the early 80s, New Bern had this hidden problem of homelessness and poverty that no one had a clue about and 40 years later the marginalized and excluded now have a voice in this community,” he said. “I think it’s worth celebrating. It’s sort of a coming of age party for RCS.”

There will be live music played by the Cherry Point 2d marine plane wing stripe and a special performance by Alex Williams of award-winning musical group Kool and The Gang.

Additionally, there will be concessions, food trucks, vendors, face painting, and a kid’s zone with inflatables for youngsters to enjoy.

George Street will be closed from Cypress Street to Guion Street for the celebration.

The event kicks off at 4 p.m. and the last performance is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. Installation will take place from noon to 3 p.m. -2767 ext. 105.

The Block Party event will also kick off RCS’ new sustainability campaign with plans to start an endowment for RCS operations and fund reserve accounts so that all operations can be sustained.

A leader in the nonprofit community

The soup kitchen, now called the Community Kitchen, is open 365 days a year and serves anyone in the community who needs a meal. Food is also distributed to families who may need food in their homes.

Hough said one of the harshest realities people living in poverty face is isolation. People who come to the kitchen have the opportunity to socialize with others while consuming their meals.

There is a 20-bed crisis overnight shelter where people can shelter from the elements, feel safe and rest for a night. During the day they are not allowed to stay in the shelter.

There are two residential wings which opened in October 2020. There is a family residence which houses five families from three to 18 months old. Families do not have to leave campus during the day.

Additionally, there is a veterans wing which has four units and a live-in veterans aide who receives accommodation in exchange for watching the house overnight.

The Buy-A-Bag store is now open for Community Church Services.

A Buy-a-Bag store recently opened and houses its emerging apparel program. Customers can buy a bag for $2 and fill it with clothes and shoes. Donations are accepted for others who may not be able to afford the bag. It also includes the Dress for Success program which is a partnership with Craven Community College and ThreadED, a tri-county clothing program for K-12 students.

Other services include transportation assistance, utility and rental assistance, disaster recovery and relief, prescription assistance, enrichment programs, and disaster preparedness boot camps. employment with Craven Community College.

Hough said that from the early stages of RCS, their mission was to find the most felt needs in the community and find a way to meet those needs.

“We know we can’t tackle poverty in our community without collaboration, so RCS has become about collaboration and I think that comes with maturity,” he said. “We are a leader in the nonprofit community here, helping other nonprofits do the same. Building communities of support is not something we expect only from our guests and customers, it’s something we also expect from ourselves.”

Hough has served as executive director since June 1, 2020, and believes his greatest accomplishment since joining the organization is building relationships with other nonprofits in the region.

The organization is now looking at its business practices and how to expand and expand its capacity. Durability is of the utmost importance, Hough said.

“In a recession where inflation is high, we don’t see 60,000 pounds of non-perishable food coming through our warehouse in the middle of summer,” he said. “It is imperative that we can weather the storms in our economy.”

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