Cup of Love Ministry, started by Chuck and Pattie Jarrett that began by handing out soup and hygiene supplies on the street in 2013, has expanded big time. The ministry moved into the old Western Sizzlin’ at on US 62 in January, and now provides a free noontime meal every day, a free food pantry on Fridays, and a livingroom where people without air conditioning can escape the heat and take a nap, read a book or watch TV.
One of the nicer aspects of Cup of Love is that people aren’t rushed to get out. And if what they need most is someone to talk to, they get that, too.
The building feels like a combination of a casual restaurant, a home and a church. There is a chapel at the back for Sunday services that begin at 11 a.m., followed by Sunday dinner. The chapel has quality sound equipment for musicians, and even two sets of drums. The Jarretts used to be entertainers and still enjoy playing music for people.
There are no requirements for getting help from the food pantry. You don’t have to prove that you are low income or unemployed, you simply go through the food pantry and pick up the items you want.
“That way people are not taking things home that they don’t use,” Pattie said. “We serve about a hundred and fifty people each Friday, and sometimes we help in between if there’s an emergency.”
In addition to getting food donations from the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank, they are able to purchase discounted hygiene supplies from United Way.
“We get $4,000 worth of products for twenty dollars each time,” Chuck said. “That is amazing. And we are blessed to get meat for eighteen cents a pound from the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank. That allows us to offer ribs, pulled pork, hamburger, chicken strips and brats.”
Local residents also bring in donations, including potluck items for lunch. People donate household items, coffee pots and toaster ovens, that can help people who are just starting a household. You can never tell what else might come in… recently a wedding dress was donated.
To the Jarretts, it isn’t so much a food ministry as a love ministry; food is just a way of showing love.
“Love is our main thing,” Chuck said. “A lot of time people just need a little encouragement, they need to know someone cares for them.”
There is less demand for their services in the summer when there are lots of jobs around. The Jarretts average feeding about 300 people a week in the summer, and about 400 people a week in winter.
Chuck said they don’t stress about being able to pay their bills or having enough food to give out.
“We ask God for corn and potatoes and the next day they appear,” Chuck said. “God has his hands all over this ministry. Our bills get paid as we need it. It just comes. That is how the Lord works.”
He also gives a lot of credit to local residents.
“We love this town,” he said. “If we didn’t live in a town so caring about feeding people, we would be in trouble.”
In addition to locals, people travel a distance to A Cup of Love – from Berryville, Green Forest, Hindsville and Huntsville. Some people needing help have medical problems. Others might have difficulty finding a job. Some have just moved to the area and are starting over. A lot of veterans come through the doors, and some visitors are homeless.
“We have homeless people of all ages,” Chuck said. Pattie agrees, saying, “We need a residential place for people to stay to get on their feet.”
The Jarretts and about 18 other volunteers don’t get paid a dime for their work. But it is clear that helping out is a joy.
Linda Hines said that volunteering at the Cup of Love is a blast.
“We have a lot of fun,” she said. “I just like seeing and helping people. I have so much, I just want to help pass it on. Chuck’s amazing. He cooks all of this each day, mostly from scratch.”
Tom Chafin, who volunteers working in the pantry, said this is something he feels called to do.
“There have been times in my life when I needed help, and it is good to give back,” said the local farmer. “And, I just like people.”