Our blind guest, Wayne, was sitting outside, basking in the spring sunshine a half-hour before the soup kitchen doors were to open Wednesday, while inside Deacon Gil Nadeau and daytime volunteer supervisor Joanne Lockwood led a group of eight volunteers in prayer.
Mother Teresa, Joanne told the group, “spent time in daily prayer and reflection before going out” to serve people in Calcutta. In the same way, she described their coming together in prayer and reflection as a “daily self-offering,” putting them in a frame of mind to better serve people coming to Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen.
“I believe the Holy Spirit is working in us, enabling us to do what we do. I also pray that the Holy Spirit inspire the hearts of many who cannot serve to donate money and food.”
Added Deacon Gil: “In addition to money and food,” people offering “prayer is important, too…We need people to pray for this ministry.”
The volunteers returned to their stations, and soon dining-room greeter Jim Caldwell was opening the doors to guests. Fifty men, women and children filed in for hot soup, sandwiches and dessert. Among the first in was Wayne. Behind Wayne was a guest sporting a small backpack, who quipped: “The soup is always good here.”
In an area adjacent to the dining tables, Deacon Gil had set up a distribution point for free personal care items – from soap, deodorant and toothpaste to toilet paper, band aids and hair spray. Marc, a new volunteer who has been a regular guest, was manning that station, allowing each guest to select two items.
Yesterday, Deacon Gil noted, Compassion Coalition sent over four truck loads of food and commodities – in exchange for volunteer Diane Hnat spending two hours working in the Coalition warehouse.
“Two loads were free, and we paid just for the shipping on the other two loads.”
In addition to personal care items, there were cases of orange juice and canned food for the soup kitchen, plus 20 cases of baby food and 40 boxes of cereal which “we gave to Thea Bowman House” (which is located on the parish campus and provides daycare and assistance to families in need). They also got a free supply of candy bars to place in Saturday’s lunch bags as well as on trays during the week as an extra treat.
But the soup kitchen couldn’t accept everything that Compassion Coalition was offering, as its freezers, coolers and storage bins were jammed full.
“That’s why we need a walk-in freezer and a walk-in cooler,” said Deacon Gil, noting that he and his coordinating group are applying for a grant and trying to raise money to obtain and install large walk-in units. “We need the capacity to accept donations as they’re made available.”
Meanwhile, as Marc was distributing personal care items, Jim was kibitzing with hungry diners as they laughed and chatted among themselves. Suddenly his voice boomed across the room:
“Hey, we’re all family here!”