justJ03

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Volunteer Service

St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen

In the kitchenI decided to volunteer my time at a soup kitchen, especially as it’s becoming the holiday season. I volunteered at the oldest soup kitchen in Memphis. The kitchen serves more than 85,000 meals each year, approximately 275 meals per day in 2009. The soup kitchen serves everybody in the community from the homeless, to the less fortunate. It has been operating for over 140 years.

My volunteering started at 6:45 a.m. with a quick tour of the facility. There was a brief amount of time spent understanding the history and purpose of the soup kitchen. I spent my time helping as well as talking with the various people trying to gain a better understanding of what they felt was the significance of the soup kitchen. There wasn’t any need for paperwork or specific training as everybody there seems to be working on the same page to reach the goal of helping the less fortunate who were there for the food, and shelter.

I began working on prepping in the kitchen. The day’s menu started off with a simple mix ofbaked goods and pastries. The main meal consisted of peanut butter sandwiches, tuna salad sandwiches, a candy/dessert treat and a cup of chili soup. For my volunteer duties, I was in charge of preparing the tuna salad sandwiches and passing the meals to the men and women as they formed their receiving line.

There seems to be one particular moment that really stands out in my mind as I reflect over the whole experience. One of the men who were in line to receive his meal was dressed in slacks and dress shoes that were only slightly scuffed. He wore a nice, jacket that covered his entire shirt. Had you come across this man in any other event or passing you would be hard pressed to have termed him homeless or less fortunate. He carried himself very well and didn’t appear to be in a state of need. Sitting there, in the “hot seat” as they called it, I could not help but think of the commonly statistic that we are all only two paychecks away from being homeless and that the stereotype of what a homeless person should in fact look like and compare these thoughts to this man in line at this particular soup kitchen. It’s a humbling experience, to say the least and it makes me wonder about the amount of importance we place on a nice appearance. What if I was homeless and going to school on a scholarship? Would my classmates think less of me knowing me before finding out that I was homeless? Would I be any different? I have worked with less fortunate people on various levels in various cities and every time I walk away with a little more appreciation for my current life and for the beauty that you see during your time of help. The manners that these people have when getting in line and making sure that women and children are served first is some impressive when you consider how often people of our everyday lives seem to always be in a “me first” state of mind. There are only a few things that I think everybody should do at least once in their life, and working with people in this close of a setting is definitely one of them.

For more information, visit: www.stmary-memphis.com/soup-kitchen/

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4 thoughts on “Volunteer Service

  1. Great post! I’ve volunteered at the Memphis Union Mission before, which serves meals and provides shelter for homeless men, and there were sometimes (though not often) men who would come in dressed in a suit that looked to be only slightly worn. It is so true that many people are just on the brink of being homeless. Did this soup kitchen serve men and women? What was the majority that came to the soup kitchen? Men, women, middle-aged, late adulthood?

    Were you uncomfortable at any time during your volunteer session? I was nervous the first time I volunteered. Did you have to fill out any paperwork or be debriefed on proper behavior or anything like that?

    • justj03 on said:

      It’s definitely a humbling experience to be able to take part in something so simple, yet so powerful. This particular kitchen serves whoever shows up, man, women or child. The majority were definitely men, probably middle-aged. Personally, I’ve done a lot of this type of volunteering before, so I don’t think there was really any type of discomfort on my end. As for paperwork or orientation, there was a little history and purpose discussion while we were prepping the food, but that was it really.
      Definitely an experience I think more people should be exposed to.

  2. This was a great blog, I feel as if I was there durnig the time that you volunteered due to your descriptions. I too volunteered at a soup kitchen and it was an honor to be able to benefit someone in that way.

    How long did you commit to volunteering at the soup kitchen?

    • justj03 on said:

      I think it’s awesome that you volunteered at a soup kitchen too! I ended up being there, from start to finish, for a total of 3 hours. I have also agreed to come back later in the month, closer to Thanksgiving to help out again.

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