Master's Table needs to find new home

It's more than a midday meal folks find when they visit The Master's Table.

The soup kitchen offers a plate of food and plenty of love to about 300 people in need every day, said Mike Firmin, the executive director of Golden Harvest Food Bank, which runs the kitchen.

Years of service, though, have taken a toll on the building's sewage system and structure, Mr. Firmin said.

"The main issues are that the building has been in constant use since 1991," he said. "It's settling. It needs to be replaced or we need a larger facility."

The Master's Table was the first community outreach of Golden Harvest when it began in 1982, Mr. Firmin said. Golden Harvest now runs the food kitchen and distributes nonperishable food to 30 counties in Georgia and South Carolina.

The steady increase of those in need of a meal has more than doubled through the years, associate director Barry Forde said.

"The facility seats 45 at one time, so we're having to run people through quickly," he said. "In addition to serving a meal, the purpose is for people to sit and have some dignity. That doesn't give us a lot of time."

Shirley Thomas, the manager of The Master's Table, has worked through the challenges of running the soup kitchen in the worn-down building. In December, sewage problems closed the kitchen for nine days, she said.

"It hurts me because they have to do without," Mrs. Thomas said. "Having a new building would mean more seating, no more caulking the cracks in the wall. It would mean everything."

For the past four years, Mr. Firmin has searched for a downtown location to meet the needs of The Master's Table. Financial support is great, but the challenge has been finding a location.

"Hope springs eternal," he said. "I do have a couple of things that could result in our dream coming true. I'm hoping the Lord will do it when he's ready."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.