One of the courses that I am taking this semester requires that I volunteer in the community for three to five hours each week. Finding a place to volunteer for the semester was not as easy as I thought it would be. First of all the course did set some parameters which eliminated volunteering at churches and old people’s homes. The goal was to find a place to work with marginalized people in some way, so, volunteering at the YMCA was out as well. Many organizations that work with people at risk require a training course or at least a police check which may not have been complete in time for the beginning of the semester. Food banks in the area are not open often enough to meet the time requirements of the course.
I finally came across a soup kitchen operating in a town not far from where we live. It was actually surprising to me that there was a regular service like this available and needed.
On Monday, I went for my first volunteer shift. I was asked to arrive about 10:30 at the church where the kitchen is based. We started with prayer led by one of the organizing women. I was the only man in the circle. They assigned me to serving the soup and sandwiches and provided me with an old Stihl chainsaw hat in lieu of a hair net. We were warned not to serve anyone before 11 am, the official opening time or the “customers” would just keep coming earlier and earlier.
At 11 there were five people waiting in line. By 12:15 we had served fifty-two and run completely out of the chicken with rice soup. When the run out was imminent the ladies in the kitchen got to work and produced chicken noodle from somewhere.
I’m not sure where all the people came from. Some were obviously needy, some were less so, but many looked like they were really lonely. The kitchen has been running for two years and there have obviously been some strong relationships built between both the volunteers and the clients.
I had a good experience and look forward to my time ladling soup next week.