Clyde’s Kitchen founder retiring after 32 years serving community

May 5, 2020 | News

Clyde Corbin, founder of Clyde’s Kitchen

Disclaimer: This story was written by Cathy Lussiana, a community contributor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Lussiana lives in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. She is a retired human resources professional who now enjoys traveling, spending time with her grandchildren, biking and writing.

Retiring after three decades of service in one place is less frequent in today’s world.

But I’d like to introduce you to someone who has spent 32 years providing a nutritious meal to those in need. Day in and day out. Week after week. Month after month.

That’s 3 million meals!

Clyde Corbin is a true community hero. He is the face behind the name at Clyde’s Kitchen, which is part of the Crossroads Community Ministries – a nonprofit that helps the homeless on a journey to a more stable life.

After retiring from the Army after 22 years of distinguished service, Corbin came to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church to take over the soup kitchen ministry. A few years later, he was instrumental in forming Crossroads Community Ministries.

I met Corbin through my husband, who volunteers there, and I had the opportunity to catch-up with Corbin (while physically distancing, of course) while he wrapped up another busy week.

First, I wanted to know: What does the next chapter hold?

Well, Corbin and his wife of 49 years are planning a summer trip in his RV — the first of many — to Maine, possibly followed by a trip to Montana. Corbin traveled all over the world during his military service, and he is now looking forward to seeing the United States from the comfort of his RV.

I ask Corbin to take a minute, think back on all his years at Clyde’s Kitchen and tell me what stands out for him.

Without hesitating, he told me that it was the volunteers, who provide support, and the guests, whom he feeds each day.

In addition to the many individuals who support this work regularly, schools, law firms, businesses and banks regularly allow their employees to volunteer. (I’m not going to call out names because I’ll risk not mentioning all who have helped over the years.)

The love that Corbin expresses for the volunteers and his guests is mutual.

One volunteer told me that Corbin is such an extraordinary person that no one adjective could describe him. Another said the collaboration among the volunteers and Corbin is at the heart of getting so much done each day.

The guests – individuals who are in need, struggling and often homeless – mean so much to Corbin, and they remain thankful for the food that he has provided.

It’s clear to me that each guest will be in Corbin’s thoughts forever. As he retires and moves into the next phase of his life, he will never stop caring about those who rely on this kitchen and its meals, and he’s committed to providing support in the future, if it’s needed.

Even more important than the preparation and serving of food to those hungry and in need is the recurring theme I heard about Corbin’s compassion. He treats everyone with respect; in return, he expects everyone to be respectful.

With any crowd, there can be challenging situations and potential tensions. But Corbin “has a way with people” and he’s been able to work through those times to ensure the right outcome.

Corbin has changed countless lives through his coaching and mentorship, always delivered with passion, energy and dedication. He takes the time to coach those who come in, and his personal impact isn’t limited to those receiving a meal. It’s also felt by the thousands of volunteers and staff members who have had the privilege to serve alongside Corbin.

Yet, he confessed that he wishes he could have done more.

As with anyone taking this next step in life, Corbin is a bit frightened by the “newness” of his next chapter. As a recent retiree myself, I can relate.

One thing Corbin won’t miss are those 5 a.m. wake-up calls. (It may take some time for the body to adjust to being able to simply sleep a bit longer.)

The current situation with COVID-19 has added to the range of emotions Corbin is experiencing. The pandemic, he told me, is mind boggling and scary, and he’ll continue to rely on his faith.

At Crossroads Community Ministries, the global pandemic has necessitated a temporary transition from hot cooked meals to sack lunches, and Corbin will support the transition back to kitchen cooking when the time is right.

Listen to these words from the Rev. Tony Johns, the executive director of Crossroads Community Ministries: “Clyde is the ultimate example of what it means to live a life of purpose, of honor, of service and of integrity.

“No accolade is too great for this incredible man. He will be terribly missed at Crossroads, and among the community he worked with – the homeless, the less fortunate, those in need.”

Most of us can only dream of such praise being given to us for what we have done with our lives in service to others.

To Corbin, from the bottom of each of our Atlanta hearts, we say thank you

for your ongoing work and commitment to make our city a better place. You have improved the lives of so many in need.

Enjoy your next chapter. You deserve every minute of it – even though we will all miss you.