Rose Mitchell, director of The Salvation Army of Aiken's soup kitchen, was ready and waiting impatiently when her help arrived around noon on Thursday.
People were standing in a long line outside the organization's homeless shelter on Park Avenue, and they were hungry.
After a few quick hellos, Mitchell directed the participants in the United Way of Aiken County's Loaned Professionals Program to roll paper napkins around plastic forks and set up chairs at the tables in the dining room.
Then they had to slice cake, fill cups with ice, pour lemonade and put pulled barbecue chicken, carrots and other food on plates.
Working in the soup kitchen at lunchtime was one of the many activities that the Loaned Professionals participated in this week during their training.
“This has been very eye-opening for me,” said Loaned Professional Trenadia Jordan of Security Federal Bank. “I've heard about these organizations, but I never knew what went on behind the scenes. To see how much they help people warms your heart, and, for me to be a part of it, I couldn't ask for anything better.”
Also participating in the Loaned Professionals Program this year are Jim Moore, a retiree who is sponsored by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, and 2012 Clemson University graduate Mckenzie Sealy, who is sponsored by CH2M HILL.
John Mickalonis of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions/Savannah River National Laboratory and Jennifer Shoup of the WSI-SRS Team are overseeing the Loaned Professionals' training.
Following this week's training sessions, the Loaned Professionals will work for the United Way for nine more weeks, assisting with the organization's 2013 fundraising campaign that kicks off today.
“They are the primary contacts for usually around 60 different accounts,” said Candis Moyer, director of resource development for the United Way. “They take materials to companies and other local businesses. They make speeches, they bring in people from our partner agencies to speak, they set up tours and then, toward the end, they go back out and collect the money raised by the companies.”
The United Way's corporate partners provide the Loaned Professionals, and the organization is grateful for the support.
“We can't put a dollar figure on it, but we couldn't do our fundraising campaign without them because we only have a staff of five,” Moyer said. “We appreciate the companies allowing them to come. They make a huge difference.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard.
She has been with the newspaper since January 2013.
A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.