When Billy Corne dreams, he dreams in polka dots. Brightly painted polka dots on a white school bus, to be exact.
This dream, which Corne had about 15 years ago, was the starting point for a mobile food and clothing pantry called Taking It to the Streets Ministries.
Corne grew up on the southeastern side of the city, playing football behind the former Boys and Girls Club of Winston-Salem. His dad became disabled when Corne was just a boy, and the family had to rely on the community’s food and clothing pantries. It’s why he chose to base his ministry here, driving on Saturdays to Central Terrace Methodist Church, Exodus Baptist Church, and Salem Gardens and Skyline Village apartments.
“There’s absolutely a need in this town,” he says. “It’s not just the homeless. There are people working 40 hours a week who can’t make ends meet.”
Inspired by his dream, he met with Clyde Fitzgerald, president of Second Harvest Food Bank of NWNC. Fitzgerald directed him to Pinedale Christian Church, which was looking to phase out its COW (Clothing on Wheels) bus. The church donated the bus to Corne, and Corne made his ministry’s first financial donation when he put $10 worth of gas in its tank.
“I used to have to take money out of my pocket for the ministry, but now donations take care of it,” he says. Sponsors include VF Corp., the Southeast Neighborhood Association, The Enterprise Center, Second Harvest Food Bank, and Triad Choice Pharmacy.
In 2017, Corne hopes to find a free, climate-controlled warehouse space so he can restart his mobile food pantry. Until then, Corne—a former chili and barbecue cookoff champ—is feeding people with his pull-behind cooker, making hundreds of hot dogs for free at community events and slow-cooking barbecue to sell at fundraisers.
At Exodus Baptist Church, Patricia Degraffinreaidt works with Corne to feed the community.
“People line up an hour or two before the bus arrives,” she says. “One lady came with two children and was so thankful because she had lost her food stamps and didn’t know how she was going to feed her kids,” she says. “It’s such a great feeling to bless folks who really appreciate it.”