JESUP, Ga. (WSAV) — Tucked away in the city of Jesup, there’s a familiar place, a place that welcomes everyone with open arms and a warm meal.
This is Tabitha’s Place, it’s a soup kitchen. But to many, it’s home.
Tabitha’s Place is known for a lot of things, serving up food, providing fresh clothes, or a place to do laundry and clean off.
And at the heart of it all—Janice Phillips.
Janice took over Tabitha’s Place in 2006. At first, her focus was simply on making the food, but it didn’t stay that way for long.
“One day I decided that I needed to go out there, in the dining room and see who was coming in and I did, and it was all over with, it became mine and the people that come to the kitchen from that day up until today, the people that come through my doors are my people,” Phillips said.
One of those people is Rachel Sikes.
She says Janice has created a refuge for people like her—a place for a second chance.
“I’m 29 months sober, I’m sober for the longest time I’ve been in my life and when I got out of a recovery home, I didn’t have a foundation, I didn’t have any resources and really I was going to end up sleeping in my car,” Sikes said. “And I met miss Janice and right off the bat she said, I don’t have much but you can stay here in the little cottage and she gave me a job here.”
Harry Shouse explained, “I came from a hard background, a heavy background and I was going down and bumpy road and miss Janice was there to help bring me to a new path in life.”
The people who know her say that there aren’t many people like Janice.
She was nominated for Remarkable Women by her dear friend, Anita Williams, who helped run Tabitha’s Place by her side for years. But, just a few months ago, Anita passed away.
“Anita used to ask me Ms. J, do you realize how much you do, and I went, I looked at her and I said no, I really don’t and I hope I never do.”
She continued, “I hope I never see what I do but she saw what I did and her heart was in it and I just know in heaven the good lords told her about this.”
It’s bittersweet, but Janice says Anita lives on in the work they do, the work she loved and the family that has grown from this place.
“There’s nothing more, nowhere I would rather be than to be right there, serving the same love that is given to me,” Shouse told News 3.
Sikes said, “I feel well, I feel sober, I feel alive, I have a purpose, I have never in my life, this is the God’s honest truth, I have never in my life felt like I have a purpose. Her encouragement and help for me and words of wisdom that I listen to because I trust her have changed my life.”
No matter where they’re from, or the struggles they’ve faced, the people who’ve made their way to Tabitha’s Place will never leave Janice’s heart.
“I love them all my own, I tell them all the same thing, I treat them all the same way and they’re my kids”