"I feel like I'm working at a restaurant," 6th grader Emma Short giggled as soup kitchen guests started arriving Monday at Mother Marianne's West Side Kitchen.
"That's exactly right," beverage station volunteer Veronica Prezybyla shot back. "Only, you don't get any tips!"
Emma was one of ten 6th graders from St. Mary's School in Clinton who were excited about returning to the soup kitchen to volunteer.
They were a little nervous before they came the first time, back in November, teacher Bernadette Verna admitted. But they took to it right away, she said, and "they've asked to come back."
She added: "They feel as though they're doing something worthwhile, and they bring a joy with them. The guests seem to really appreciate it."
The adult volunteers were all smiles, too. "We love having the kids here," noted volunteer daytime supervisor Joanne Lockwood.
"They're so enthusiastic about helping out," added Pat Fletcher, a regular Monday volunteer who was there both times the 6th graders showed up. "They do everything: They wash the dishes, they go out and clean the tables, and they serve the food. They make it fun to be here."
Fun also was how 6th grader Anne Krysczuk described working there. "I feel like a waitress."
Sixth grader Jack Hughes said, "It makes you feel good when you help people," and classmate Daniel Hillman was convinced their presence "really helps the needy."
Sixth grader Madeline Krasniak spoke of a sense of community: "I like helping here because it's for the good of the community... We all should care about each other because we're all part of the same community. It doesn't matter who's richer or poorer."
The students arrived with some 20 bags of food and goodies to donate to the soup kitchen -- the spoils of a "dress down" day at the elementary parochial school, where kids got to leave their uniforms home for a donation of foodstuff.
In addition to Mrs. Verna, the contingent from St. Mary's included two parents, Kelly Liddell and Maureen Hughes, and the following students: Madeline Krasniak, Anne Krysczuk, Emma Short, Audrey Bartels, Collin Liddell, Troy Newman, Michael Howard, Daniel Hillman, Tyler Jury and Jack Hughes.
"We're always preaching to them" about loving their neighbors and helping people in need, as part of a Virtues Program, their teacher said. Here "they get a sense of people 10 miles away from them who need help; it's not some other country."
In other words, she said, "They're putting faith into action."