The issue of hunger and poverty tends to conjure images of starving families in a shanty town on the other side of the world. However, the problem is more widespread than that. According to The Hunger Project, 795 million people in the world, or one in nine, suffer from hunger. This is not an issue limited to economically depressed countries, it exists right here in America, probably closer than you think. In order to combat this problem, The Huntington City Mission offers the community feeding program to area residents.
The mission, a non-denominational Christian organization, also offers spiritual support to its residents, primarily through church services. This combination of faith and community service is the foundation on which the organization rests. For Mitch Webb, executive director of the Huntington City Mission since 2015, faith and community service are the core concepts on which his own values are built. Webb said obtaining the job represented a culmination of his desire to engage in a career that simultaneously served his faith.
“I worked for nearly 36 years at State Electric Supply Company,” Webb said. “About the same time I started working there—I was 19—I started working in ministry. I kind of had that dual thing going all those years. I was really looking for a way I could focus on one or the other. In the meantime, I found out that the fella who had this position, Pete Davidson, was retiring. It felt like it was something where I could use both the little bit of business knowledge I had and my real passion, ministering the people. I could do both those things together, and I only have to wear one hat.”
When The Huntington City Mission opened its doors in 1939, it functioned primarily as a soup kitchen. Since then, facilities for men, women and families have grown up around it. Now, the Mission’s Dining Hall is the hub of the community feeding program, which serves as an affiliate of the United Way of the River Cities. As a funded program of United Way, the dining hall serves meals to both residents of the mission and the general public.
“What the United Way primarily does is support our community feeding program,” Webb said. “We served right around 100,000 meals three years running, and last year we served 126,000. Because of our association with the United Way, we are able to open that up so that it’s not just the people who live at the mission, but the community in general that benefits from the program. About 50 percent of the meals we served last year went to the people in the community. This year United Way offered some additional grants, and we have received a grant that is allowing us to replace the out of date security cameras in this facility.”
The community feeding program serves meals three times a day: Monday through Saturday and twice on Sunday. Among the people who eat at the dining hall, about 66 percent are men, 25 percent are women and 9 percent are children. Webb said he feels thankful that the United Way has given his organization the ability to provide meals to the less fortunate.
“We really appreciate United Way,” Webb said. “There are a lot of agencies in Huntington that are really dedicated to helping people who are homeless. We have a lot of things in the Huntington area that make us stand out for the wrong reasons, but there is a lot of great work being done too, and certainly United Way would be a part of that. If it wasn’t for them and places like them, it would be very hard or impossible for us to do what we do, so they are greatly appreciated.”
While the community feeding program may not solve all the problems that plague this region, at least local residents know they don’t have to go hungry and homeless if they fall on hard times. After all, such a widespread problem must be tackled on a local level, one battle at a time. The Huntington City Mission is one such battlefront, fighting the problem everyday on behalf of the people who need it most.