By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Since late July every Thursday has been Thanksgiving for Carolyn Jenkins.
The retired MATA driver moved back to her hometown of Millington in 2009 after the passing of her husband. As member of New Living Well Worship Center, Jenkins became an associate pastor in Pastor Caroline A.V. Brown’s ministry.
Assisting in their food outreach program for several years Jenkins identified a need in the Millington community. Then one day when the retired MATA bus driver was cruising around Flag City, she got even more up close and personal with those hungry residents of Millington.
“I was riding around the neighborhoods and I would go to different locations throughout the neighborhoods,” Jenkins recalled. “I saw the need of the people. They would ask me to buy them food because they were hungry. Sometime they would even ask me for money to get themselves something to eat. My heart went out to these guys.
“So I went home and I prayed to God about the situation,” she continued. “And God answered me. God told me to feed my people. I have a spirit for people and a passion to serve.The next day I went around and I gathered the guys up. And I told them, ‘Tell you what, on Sunday when I get out of church,’ which was July 28, 2013, ‘I want you guys to meet me in Oak Park at Baker Community Center. And at 12 o’clock I’m going to have you all a hot meal.’ And they met me there”
That tradition has grown into Soul Out Ministries and a regular meeting in the Baker Community Center. Many longtime Millington philanthropists like grant writer Debra Sigee and Dream Inter Faith Ministry’s Irene Beech took notice.
Along with help from the city of Millington, First United Methodist Church’s Food Pantry and many residents, Jenkins’ normal Thursday Meal at the Baker Community will be a Thanksgiving Feast on Nov. 28 from noon to 2 p.m.
“It’s just God’s grace that he has poured out so much help in this city,” Jenkins said. “I’m so grateful. We’ve formed a partnership with Dream Inter Faith Ministry because she has the same passion that I have to feed the people. Not only to feed, but we have clothing we try to give to the children, women who come in. There’s just a need here.”
Through Soul Out Ministries Jenkins has been able to organize the Thanksgiving meal. But before July 28 of this year Jenkins gave back to her fellow man through her job as bus driver.
For 14 years she drove the “11 route” from Frayser to Northaven to South Memphis. Her job gave her the chance to counsel people and share her love for God.
But it was more than a year ago Jenkins felt she got a clear sign from above to be more driven with her faith and give back.
“I knew God had something for me to do,” she said. “Because in March 2012, I went to the doctor just for a routine check up. I just wanted to have a check up. And I had two blockages. I had to have open-heart surgery. From March 2012 walking around with no hurt or anything.
“He spared me because He had a greater work for me to do,” Jenkins added. “And I don’t take it lightly. I’m going to do whatever, and I am going to be obeient to whatever God wants me to do because He has left me here for a reason. And that’s to help somebody and that’s what I want to do. I want to make a difference in Millington, Tenn., where I was born and raised. I give all the credit to God.”
Now the 58-year-old Millington native will be one of the caring faces on hand Thanksgiving feeding those in need homecook food. Jenkins emphasized she wants this meal to become a Thanksgiving tradition like her regular Thursday meals.
Since July Jenkins has cooked food along with her 82-year-old mother Catherine Williams and 83-year-old God-mother Mary Montgomery.
“On Sept. 12, 2013 we started feeding in the community center,” Jenkins recalled. “We started feeding them from 12 o’clock to 1 o’clock. A lot of the guys would come in and they would come in and need clothes. I started asking some friends around the neighborhood, ‘Do you have things we can give them.’ They started bring clothes and we started gathering clothes for the gentlemen.”
The meeting in Oak Park next to Baker Community Center grew from a one-time hot meal to a full outreach ministry.
The little girl who grew up in a family of 12 started cooking for others at the age of 12. She raised three sons and now she is ready to assist a struggling mother, a man fallen on hard times or an elderly person in need of simple hot meal.
“The need is growing in our city and we need to help these people,” Jenkins said. “It’s a great need in this city. We have people now who are elderly who come that come into the center on Thursday who need a hot meal.
“We have women with children who come into the community center on Thursdays that need a hot meal,” she concluded. “Soul Out Ministry has started to feed the sick and shut-in, women with children. Anybody who comes into that center, I don’t turn them away. They can drive up in a Bentley. I’m going to feed them because that’s what God told me to do.”
For more information on Soul Out Ministry or the Thanksgiving Feast, call 949-1675. To donate, send to Soul Out Ministries, P.O. Box 231, Millington, TN 38083-0231.