A Day in the Life of a Volunteer
People have asked what is involved when one volunteers to serve in Friendship Service Center’s community kitchen. I hope that this article will encourage you to become part of this important mission. You won’t be sorry!
On a Thursday morning in mid-August, the outside temperature was in the 80’s as Deb, Molly and I, St. James volunteers, walked down into the kitchen at Friendship Service Center in New Britain at 9:30 a.m. Even with fans going full force, it was much hotter there, but none of us was even tempted to leave the bustling kitchen.” Right away we were made welcome by Kitchen Director Gerry and given the first of many tasks.
Other volunteers were readying dessert plates, so our first assignment was to set up and stack about 130 lunch trays, adding napkins and forks. Next came prepping the food. The lunch was to be turkey in gravy, roasted potatoes, and cranberry sauce, tossed salad, rolls and dessert. We three were assigned to pull apart the four previously roasted turkeys, by hand, into good-size pieces to go into the pot. On the large professional stove, two large containers of stock made from turkey bones, vegetables and spices were burbling, on the way to becoming tasty gravy. Our next task was to package roasted red, green and yellow peppers for the freezer and to break apart a large tray of parsley into smallish pieces, with stalks saved in a jar for another day’s stock. Nothing goes to waste in this kitchen.
Kitchen Manager (and Chef) Dan gave us cooking demonstrations as he was circulating quickly between refrigerator, stove and counter. Use a roux of butter, flour and stock for the gravy. If it needs thickening, use a corn starch and water mixture, making more and more until the gravy is properly thick. To prepare dressing for the mixed green salad we had put together, he used a whisk to emulsify oil, vinegar and spices. Take a spoonful to taste until perfection is reached.
The serving line was readied for a prompt 11:45 opening. Lines had formed outside, with Kitchen Assistant Steve in place to perform crowd control. The lines of men, women and children moved efficiently, with each of us speedily dishing out food. The lunch hour passed quickly. As soon as someone left, another person came to take their place. Toward the end, people could come back for seconds, and many did.
We three, and other volunteers, swept, mopped, cleaned tables and counters, and within record time the kitchen and dining room were ready for the next day. By 1:30 we were on our way back to St. James.
The best part of the day was seeing so many hungry people being fed healthy delicious food, and knowing we had been essential to their enjoyment. I asked my visiting granddaughter Molly what the day had meant to her. “It felt good to help people. It was kind of amazing (and also sad) to recognize how much people base their idea of others on things such as how somebody looks or where they live. Here most of the people were so grateful to be given what they needed. It’s an experience that I think everyone should have at least once in their lifetime.”
If a 12-year old “gets it,” so will you and your children. Sign up. Come and see!