The clatter of dishes placed three across down the stainless steel table top preceded the next step. Working along one side Elizabeth put two slices of cheddar cheese on each plate while I placed a halved sandwich of buttered bread across from them. Whoever got down their lineup first, then placed two cookies on each setup, which left just enough space for the bowls of thick, hot beef barley soup or the chicken vegetable alternative.
For the last 20 years, remarkably without fail, the weekend soup kitchen in CYO Hall below Sacred Heart Cathedral, the landmark at the corner of Steele and 4th Avenue in Whitehorse, has provided a hot meal for anyone who came seeking one. Faithfully, volunteers from various churches, civic groups or just groups of friends have set aside the two to three hours needed to prepare for, serve, and then clean up after anywhere from the 50 to a 100 people who came seeking a meal.
Philip organized our crew last Sunday. It seems that a month with five Sundays often leaves a hole in the regular rotation among groups. This can demand cobbling together a team from his list of occasional volunteers like myself. Rick rounded out our team of veteran hands.
A whole other set of behind-the-scene people, however, make this effort a continuing community reality. It needs soup makers like Mike who came by while we were setting up. He picked up empty ice cream pails, which he intended to fill with moose stew destined for the soup kitchen freezer.
Maryhouse, like many other groups, provides extras. Last Sunday this Cook Street institution sent over a tray of sandwiches, which had been donated by a local restaurant. It helped bolster the meal. A local Rotary Club also provided prepackaged bags to be handed out as folk left the hall. These included ready-to-eat food items like a granola bar, an individual serving of apple sauce with a plastic spoon and a packet of cheese and crackers for later.
This soup kitchen has, at its core, a small group of organizers who schedule the groups, buy everything from the coffee, napkins, orange juice, margarine, and other supplies needed by all the groups and generally oversee its operation. And, of course, donors, without any special appeal, provide the cash needed for these basics. It is truly a community effort.
The first all-school community food drive Wednesday saw students, teachers and parents spread out across Whitehorse to collect bags of food donated by thousands of families. These helped refill the shelves of the Whitehorse Food Bank. This drive supersedes the previous effort of just the Catholic schools. It bears continuing witness as does the weekend soup kitchen, to the generosity of our community. The many acts of giving they represent help build a healthy, caring community. On this Thanksgiving long weekend this is something we can be truly thankful for.
These thousands of individual actions prepare the way for our next steps. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his encyclical ‘Caritas in veritate’: “Justice is inseparable from charity, and is intrinsic to it.” We, together, must find the ways to address the root causes of the social ills like hunger in our midst.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.