If you walk into the kitchen of the Community Table on any given night, you will see volunteers hustling to set the tables, getting food ready, serving up hot, healthy meals, washing dishes, wiping down tables, and a number of other tasks that it takes to keep things running smoothly. With over a hundred guests coming and going within an hour’s time, the volunteers make sure that everyone who wants a meal gets one, but, as the guests will tell you, more importantly, they create a warm, friendly atmosphere.
As Scott Medina, the director of the Community Table, says, “never underestimate the value of another human being listening to the stories—really, it’s the human connection that makes the difference to our guests and has the biggest impact on their self-esteem and on their morale.”
Taking the time to interact with the guests, to talk with them, ask them how they’re doing, and give them a smile, not only gives the guests the dignity and respect that they often are denied when they’re out on the streets, but shows all of us the humanity that truly lies behind homelessness. If you ever wanted to know the real value of a few hours of your time, sit down with the guests at the Community Table and talk to them, but more importantly, listen. What you’ll hear is that no two people have the same story, no one’s circumstances or backgrounds are the same. You’ll talk to mothers, sons, former professors, veterans, and everything in between. You’ll hear about hard times, good times, heartaches, great loves, and so many of the same dreams and desires that are inside of all of us.
Another great group of volunteers meets for a few hours every Monday and Tuesday morning to help prepare the food that is served for lunch at Bridge House and for dinner at the Community Table throughout the week. These volunteers, led by Bridge House staffer and nutritionist, Shari, are incredibly committed to making food that is healthy, delicious and filling. The recipes are created to use everything that was donated for that week and to make sure it will make over 120 servings so that they are able to feed everyone. These volunteers are a close-knit group of all shapes and sizes that really just enjoy coming together each week to make good food. Both the Monday Team and the Tuesday Team have been together fully for over a year and the camaraderie is tangible in the kitchen. When one of the volunteers was asked why he continued to come, he said, “I come out of a sense of service and because I think this issue is important. But I also come because of the team—the people are great and I always enjoy myself. I would also be remiss if I didn’t say that we love Shari, our fearless leader, who is always saying positive things to all of us—and not ironically either!” Also a part of these teams are two of Bridge House’s Ready to Work crew members who really lead the teams make sure that the volunteers know what to do and how to do it.
This time of year, many people want to give back to their communities and help those less fortunate than themselves, but anyone that volunteers at the Community Table throughout the year will tell you that homelessness doesn’t just happen around the holidays.
“It’s really great that the holidays bring out this innate desire in so many of us to serve,” Scott Medina, the director of the Community Table, says, “but we really hope that it can be a catalyst to serve year-round because the need is there 365 days a year.”
If you are interested in volunteering at the Community Table, email Scott Medina at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will help get you plugged in to the great work that they’re doing.