Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ray: Even in a recession, America is still America

Allen Willoughby, director of Sugartree Ministries, holds scissors aloft as he prepares to cut the grand re-opening ribbon on the doors of Our Father's Kitchen on Saturday, as Nick Lachey, left, and Rachael Ray, right, cheer him on. The Rachael Ray Show crew can be seen filming the event for an upcoming episode, scheduled to air Nov. 25


The lights for the television cameras were bright, but the light shining from the smile on Allen Willoughby’s face was brighter as he cut a red grand re-opening ribbon stretched across the doors of Sugartree Ministries.

Hundreds of Wilmington residents waited in a line that wound around the block at 180 E. Main Street on Saturday, and the group of more than 400 people erupted into cheers as Willoughby, the director of Sugartree Ministries and Our Father’s Kitchen, welcomed talk show host Rachael Ray and singer Nick Lachey to the grand re-opening.

The Emmy Award-winning “Rachael Ray Show” facilitated a complete makeover of the soup kitchen, with the help of Lachey, celebrity carpenter and home improvement host Carter Oosterhouse and interior designer Kahi Lee, and stocked the pantry shelves with a year’s worth of food.

Ray told the News Journal on Saturday that the decision to come to Wilmington was an easy one.

“Because 10,000 people lost their jobs and the unemployment rate is at 15 percent and the national unemployment rate is at 10.2 percent,” Ray said from the newly remodeled kitchen at Our Father’s Kitchen.

Ray said she is hoping to set an example so people across the nation will be inspired to try and make a difference in their own community. “It’s an epidemic of people going hungry,” she said, and there is something someone can do in every community to help out.

Sunday, Ray will host a Thanksgiving dinner at the Roberts Centre for area residents facing tough economic times. The makeover of the soup kitchen and the Thanksgiving dinner will be featured during an upcoming episode of “The Rachael Ray Show” scheduled to air Nov. 25. For local listings visit

“This is just like where I come from, just like where I live now in upstate New York,” Ray said when asked about her impression of Wilmington. “When a business closes, it affects everyone, and it’s the same case here. It’s just like this at home. It’s very friendly, everyone says ‘hello,’ everyone knows everyone.”

Ray’s advise for area people coping with job loss is to, “keep on keeping on. Just get through it,” Ray said. “It’s unrealistic to say this is something that is going to go away overnight. That is why it was so important we not just stock (Our Father’s Kitchen) for a day, we brought in food for a year.

“We’re bringing in career counselors, and they are doing everything they can to help get through,” Ray said. “Even in a recession, America is still America,” and there are still opportunities. “You can find what you love and make a living at it.”

Lachey told the News Journal that growing up in Cincinnati, he was familiar with the Wilmington area from when his dad took him fishing at Ceasar Creek when he was a kid, and that he wanted to lend a hand in helping out the thousands here who are now without jobs.

“You have to give what you can,” Lachey said. “There’s not a food bank in the country that doesn’t need more volunteers. I don’t think people around the country know how big this is. Hunger is not a problem that is going to go away.”

Before the doors opened to the hundreds of people waiting in line, Ray, Lachey, the Sugartree Ministries staff and members of the “Rachael Ray Show” crew gathered into a circle and Willoughby led the traditional before-meal prayer.

“We are so thankful for this day,” Willoughby said. “Let’s thank the Lord for this day.”

As the group bowed their heads, Willougby prayed: “This is your day and we celebrate you. Bless the people about to enter our building. May we meet their needs.”

Once the service got underway, Willoughby said he was in awe when he saw the finished product.

“We had a pretty makeshift kitchen before,” he said. “Carter told us there was a better flow for (people) to receive their groceries and then to receive their meal. They did a wonderful job.”

What does Willoughby consider the best part?

“I love it all,” he said. “But what I love most is that we can serve more people.”


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