Local News

Durham's 'Soup Kitchen' Leader Retiring

Posted November 25, 1998

— After 19 years of ladling out countless bowls of hot soup, passing out afternoon snacks and entire plates of breakfast, lunch or dinner -- as well as spearheading fundraising, planning menus, securing food sources -- Betsy Rollins has announced her retirement from The Community Kitchen.

That's the organization's official name. To just about everyone it is known as the "soup kitchen."

Rollins, 61, is stepping down from the program founded by St. Philips Episcopal Church. The free hot meals are doled out at the Urban Ministries Building at 112 N. Queen St., near downtown Durham.

'Miz Betsy,' as she is known to volunteers and patrons alike, says her health is fine but that she has been taking stock of her life since her husband Don died in June. Rolls says her last day heading the 'soup kitchen' will be June 30, 1999.

Mark Higgins, chairman of the Community Kitchen Board of Directors, said Rollins "will be very hard to replace."

When she first worked with the food program, it typically served up to 50 people a day; today it serves up to 250, many of whom are the working poor.

Rollins has rolled up her sleeves to do whatever is necessary to make the program work, whether it is serving food, carrying out unending administrative duties or approaching people in the community about supporting the program.

Although the kitchen is in passable financial shape, Rollins' wish is to leave it with $500,000 in its bank account to see it through any possible rough times ahead.

That fits in with her longtime practice of enthusiastic networking on behalf of the food program, encouraging people to contribute both money and time.

Creating a substantial bank account for the kitchen is actually Rollins' second wish. Her first wish is that such a program is not needed at all.

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