Ministry serves North Suffolk’s needy

Published 7:53 pm Saturday, March 1, 2014

Gerry Mattoon is proud of the kitchen he manages at Oasis Social Ministry in Portsmouth. Last year, 44,000 breakfasts and lunches were prepared in the facility and served to needy individuals.

In fact, together with its pantry program, the ecumenical ministry provided 183,000 meals to the local community.

Gerry Mattoon is the kitchen manager for Oasis Social Ministry, which is based in Portsmouth but also serves the needy in North Suffolk. “We get a lot of military who like to come in and cook and serve,” he said of volunteers.

Gerry Mattoon is the kitchen manager for Oasis Social Ministry, which is based in Portsmouth but also serves the needy in North Suffolk. “We get a lot of military who like to come in and cook and serve,” he said of volunteers.

“I’m particularly proud of this building,” Mattoon said Friday, while leading a reporter on a tour of facilities in the downtown area.  “We (formerly) had an old building on High Street, (but here) we were able to get a convection oven, a 10-burner gas grill, an industrial-type dishwasher….”

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Burgess Hodges, Oasis’ resource and development planner, said the charity helped feed 62 families in North Suffolk, a community it serves alongside Portsmouth and Chesapeake.

The fastest-growing individual program, Hodges said, was the delivery of groceries to seniors, which started in 2003 and has grown annually since.

Groceries are currently delivered to 76 homebound seniors every month — including in North Suffolk — and there are about 21 additional seniors on a waiting list to join, according to Hodges.

Recently, the Food Lion Charitable Foundation donated $2,500 to Oasis, which Hodges said had allowed the addition of five clients to the seniors program, and the hope is to add another five soon.

“Our food pantry has grown 27 percent in the past year,” Hodges said. “It’s actually grown 50 percent since we moved into the new building in 2011.”

A lot of community organizations support the Oasis food pantry, Hodge said. They do so via activities such as food drives, he added, and Oasis partners with the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia.

“I don’t know of other agencies that do a food pantry quite to this scale in the area,” he said.

Mattoon also mentioned “loads of support from Walmart, Sam’s Club, Food Lion, not to mention the literally hundreds of people that drop by and give us foodstuffs.”

The kitchen manager is also proud of the dining hall attached to the kitchen, which seats about 93.

Hodge explained that 10 of the soup kitchen’s 14 weekly meals are served in the Oasis hall, while the other four are handled between Portsmouth’s Zion and Third Baptist churches.

Oasis helps needy individuals and families in various other ways, such as by extending the food pantry to the families of terminally ill children served by Edmarc Hospice, as well as operating a thrift store and various programs like distributing books to children and providing health screenings.

For more information, including inquiring about volunteering, call 397-6060 or visit www.oasissocialministry.org.