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Homeless brother inspires couple to serve hundreds of meals each week

By Angie Denison, KSL TV | Posted - Jan. 6, 2021 at 9:22 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — A group of people with good hearts are making a difference in the world — the founders at Fill The Pot Ministry reach out every single week to serve those less fortunate.

Every Sunday morning, a hungry group of people line up outside a nondescript building in Salt Lake City, waiting patiently for a meal. For many, it's the only hot meal they'll eat all week long.

Meanwhile, inside Fill the Pot Hope Center Outreach Ministry, located on 300 S. 500 West, Reverend Jay Ragsdale and his wife Toni are busy making sure preparations are underway to feed and clothe those waiting in the cold.

The Ragsdales have made it their mission to make certain the people in line have a good meal and other necessities.

Jay and Toni's journey began several years ago when Reverend Ragsdale's brother became homeless and was living in a piano box near Pioneer Park. Ragsdale came to Utah and was successful in helping his brother get off the streets, but then tragically lost him to ill health.

The experience impacted Ragsdale deeply and made him resolve to help others in similar situations. Now, over a decade later, the Ragsdales have been serving up Sunday meals every week to their less fortunate friends.

They first began serving breakfast to the homeless in Pioneer Park.

Their efforts grew from those humble beginnings, serving food from the back of a trailer, to now serving hundreds of meals each week from a building they lease near the park.

The Ragsdales spend every Sunday with their downtrodden friends, serving them meals and offering support.

"A lot of people get confused, thinking we serve just the homeless, but we're just serving anybody that wants to eat," said Reverend Ragsdale.

"Our hope is just to kind of say, you matter to us," said Toni. "This is what we're doing. Somebody sees you. We understand there's a need, and we're here if you need something."

Both Jay and Toni have full-time jobs — he works as a truck driver, while she works with the state.

The couple uses their wages to help fund the efforts of Fill The Pot ministry, and they survive with the help of others, too.

"You know, we have a few different religions running around here," the reverend said. "We just come together as one melting pot and make this happen."

They rely on volunteers to cook and serve the meals.

A core group comes every week to do that, among them is Vic Deauvono, who has been volunteering for years. He, like many others, is driven to help by his own life experiences.

"I was raised by a single mom. There were six of us, and we never really went without food, but we didn't have a lot. My mom taught me to be charitable," said Vic.

Both young and old come to volunteer, eager to support their less fortunate friends in the community.

"This state, Utah, man, chokes me up. You just give the call, you give the call and Utah comes running," said Reverend Ragsdale, speaking of the volunteers.

Volunteers serve cheerfully on the food line and hand out badly needed items to anyone who walks through the door.

"We don't ask questions. We don't say, 'do you have a place?' We don't police the food. We just say, 'if you come in line and you want a hot meal, we'll give you a hot meal,'" said Toni Ragsdale.

Many who come for help said the support means the world to them, adding that they consider the Ragsdales their friends.

Reverend Ragsdale said his payoff is when he sees people get the help they need, "Four people today came by and said, 'hey, Rev I got a job, man. I'm going to work. I'm just going to get some clothes today. Grab me something to eat, but I got a job.'"

The all-volunteer effort relies on the generosity of the community. Anyone who wants to donate or volunteer can visit their Facebook page.

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Angie Denison

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