Masked and gloved volunteers carried about 3,000 pounds of rotting meat out of nine freezer chests at the aftermath of a mission fire Tuesday.

A team of about 10 were tasked with harvesting salvageable items and disposing of decomposing food at Soul Food Cafe and Mission’s warehouse building behind Four Winds Church in Conway.

Mission co-director Rick Harvey reminded the team of volunteers to take breaks from work and from the toxic air of the room at intervals.

"No one will think you are lazy," he announced across the warehouse. "Take a break if you need it."

The shell of the building is still standing behind the church at Dave Ward Drive, but the fire that blazed inside more than a week ago claimed stores of food, housewares, clothing and toiletry items that were to be funneled into the hands of those in need.

Conway Fire Department investigators believe the source of the fire to be a short in a forklift battery charger.

Those who hadn’t heard of the mission’s misfortune were arriving Tuesday, the mission’s typical day of operation, to be turned to another venue for assistance.

The fire that destroyed the mission on Sunday, Aug. 21 was the second one that claimed Rick Harvey and his wife and co-director Tracy Harvey’s operation.

Soul Food Cafe and Mission also burned in an apparent arson on the south edge of Conway in 2006.

Their setup at Four Winds Church was a temporary site until the group could open their largest and most ambitious service mission at 1717 South Donaghey Ave.

A warehouse-type building stands at the site, but the building’s inner workings have yet to be furnished.

Harvey said that fundraisers had already been set in motion toward the future mission’s completion before the fire claimed venue and stores for a second time.

The Harveys’ plans have been to build a mission that would continue to feed hundreds in a soup kitchen format, as well as act as a distribution point for food boxes. Additionally, the mission would offer temporary overnight stays, shower and laundry facilities, and a furniture and home furnishings showroom.

Rick Harvey said Tuesday that the group had planned to open to the public again this week, but the aim proved too ambitious.

"We’ve had to concentrate on the aftermath, cleanup and salvaging. We really need to reorganize. The board met and made some really hard decisions. We’ll get back on our feet again," he said.

Second Baptist Church has "graciously" offered facilities to Soul Food until the group moves into its permanent home, Harvey said.

The church at 701 Polk St., just off of Harkrider Street in Conway will provide venue for Soul Food beginning Monday, Oct. 3.

Soul Food will again offer a spiritual message with music, breakfast, lunch, food boxes and personal care items weekly beginning on that Monday. 

Hours of operation will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. as they were traditionally.

Soul Food will host a Fall Festival fundraiser at downtown Conway’s Simon Park on Saturday, Oct. 22 to raise funds for the future mission.

Financial donations are currently being accepted at First Security Bank locations, and food donations may be taken to Parisi Speed School at 575 Club Lane off of Salem Road. 

At this time the group cannot accept donations of clothing, furniture or appliances.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at



A gallery of the fire's aftermath is available at, or at the bottom of this page.