It was time for soup kitchen volunteers to celebrate.
Mother Marianne's West Side Kitchen reached its first anniversary March 10. Volunteers had cooked, prepared and served more than 20,000 noontime meals. And given up 10,000 hours.
But the talk at an anniversary Mass and reception was about the gift of serving.
"By the grace of God, after one year, we know it is a privilege to be able to serve people in our community...especially those who are hungry or in need," Fr. Richard Dellos, pastor, said in his homily.
While enjoying refreshments and cake, a number of the 35 volunteers who attended -- out of over 100 -- turned their thoughts to the people they serve, and to an unexpected joy of working together.
"One of the wonderful things is when the people come in, they thank us for the food, and when we smile, they thank us for smiling," said Ana Pereira.
Added Diane Hnat: "I can't tell you how nice the people are. If you say, 'God bless you,' they say 'God bless you' back."
Joanne Lockwood mentioned the camaraderie.
"We have a good time in the kitchen," she said.
"We do!" said Diane.
"If somebody's having a bad day, we help lift each other up," added Ana.
"Thank you for your efforts," Deacon Gil Nadeau, director, told the volunteers. "I say that on behalf of the people who sit in the dining room and eat with a smile on their faces."
Referring to the 10,000 volunteer hours, he said: "You can't put a price tag on that...Everything is totally volunteer. That's why it works, why we're self-sufficient."
Bob Oderkirk, who with wife Donna coordinates the Wednesday evening food production, mentioned how blessed they were with the 20-plus volunteers who turn out every time they get together.
Each of the past two production nights, the crews prepared over 1,000 sandwiches and over 20 gallons of soup.
"We're able to keep the freezers stocked...and it doesn't seem like work."
They start the evening with prayer, with helps set the tone, he said, and suddenly, the fun starts.
"You can show up tired, and in five minutes, you're not tired anymore."