ATHENS, Texas (KETK) – It’s 3:00 am in Athens, The Soul Kitchen looks dark from the outside. But inside, it’s bustling.
Willa Johnson and her daughter have started preparing Monday’s menu. It’s “soulash”, goulash with sausage and cornbread.
The hot meals are made fresh, Monday through Thursday during the summer months for underprivileged children.
“I used to be a hungry kid when I was growing up too and I depended on those summer food programs to feed us and they would bring us moldy sandwiches and bad milk and stuff like that,” said Johnson.
A memory that motivated her to start her non-profit, called “Feeding Kids Right”, three years ago.
“I stepped out on faith and I said, well I want to feed the kids, the way I want to feed the kids, with a lot of sugar, butter, and love,” said Johnson.
Not only does Johnson start cooking before the sun comes up, she drives into Athens from Fort Worth every day.
“I get up at midnight, I’ve got to be out of that house no later than 12:30, I get down this highway to make sure that all our meats and stuff is on by 3 o’clock,” said Johnson.
The meals they provide is prepared and packaged from their food truck, a gift from a man in Dallas.
“I had been trying to raise the money to get a food truck to ride around in the city of Athens playing soul music for over a year and I couldn’t get it, but he saw my story and God did the rest,” said Johnson.
On Monday, a local baker stopped by with 500 cookies to include with the meals.
“If there wasn’t something like Feeding Kids Right, then these kids might go without any kind of food and I love that they’re getting a hot, good meal,” said Jennifer Browning, owner of Goodies by Jenn. “And so I’m just so excited to be able to give just a little bit back today as well.”
It’s contributions like these that give Johnson hope.
“We function through donations, so I really rely on donations from the community, which I don’t get a lot of help from the community, it’s been a lot of people on the outside, like all over the world,” said Johnson.
Johnson makes every cent and every moment count. Whether dancing or playing with the children as they wait for their food, they really appreciate the daily meal, yelling thank you and showering Johnson with hugs.
As the summer comes to an end, Johnson is running low on funds to provide warm meals to community children.
“If we don’t get some donations in, we will not be able to carry on to the end of the summer,” said Johnson. “School start August 5th and I want to at least try to go to next Thursday to make sure that those kids can eat and get ready to go into the school year.”
With faith on her side, she hasn’t given up yet.
“I’m always a believer and I’m a praying person,” said Johnson. “If one person says no, another one is going to say yes.”
A hopefulness only matched by her heart, the size of Texas.
You can help Johnson finish strong by sending donations to paypal.me/fighthunger595.