|JULY 5, 2012 --
I had the great opportunity and pleasure to volunteer at the Northeast Community Kitchen in Danielson as part of Web Industries Hartford’s (the company that I work for) Service to Our Community Campaign.
When I arrived I was greeted by a woman named Connie. Connie is a middle aged woman who seemed a little rough around the edges and is the site coordinator for the Danielson Community Kitchen. Connie immediately set to work dicing ham. When I asked what the menu for the day was, she replied, it was going to be macaroni salad and Sloppy Joes, but her plans were changed when the hamburger she was promised never came through so she quickly changed the menu to her version of an Italian Wedding soup, macaroni salad with ham and baked beans.
You see, the Community Kitchens in Northeast CT rely heavily on donations from the CT Food Bank and local Supermarkets, and when something doesn’t come through like hamburger, Connie has to make do with what she has in her freezer and storage closet. I was astounded by what she did with so little. Connie took 4 pounds of frozen meatballs had two volunteers cut them into smaller pieces as the meat in her soup.
The 8 pounds of diced ham was prepared to be part of the macaroni salad. As the recipients of the lunch arrived, some by 10:00, lunch isn’t served till 12:00; they were all greeted by Connie and offered a beverage and snack.
66 people were served lunch, for many of them this meal was most likely their only meal for the day. There were homeless families; people from the two local shelters and some just down on their luck and Connie knew them all, if not when they arrived, definitely by the time they left. When one person asked if there was enough for them to have seconds, Connie replied, “No one goes hungry when Connie’s cooking, you know that.” There wasn’t a soul she didn’t treat with respect and dignity, regardless of their circumstance.
Prior to the meal being finished she told all of the volunteers “you make sure no now leaves here without a loaf of bread and a plate to take home if they want it.” When everyone left, be it someone who came for lunch or a volunteer, we all left with an offer of more food, a loaf of bread and a kind word from Connie.
This was one of the most moving experiences in my life. I know all areas are affected by the level of need I saw, but I was blind. Blind because I never want to see the true need. Not seeing the true need meant our community was exempt from it, it didn’t happen. There were no homeless, no drug addicts. How could there be, I never see them. What a wonderfully sheltered life I lead. When I saw a group of VERY dedicated volunteers giving of themselves unselfishly; judging no one, it made me somewhat embarrassed.
How dare I turn a blind eye? I do not live a life of luxury; I don’t have expensive clothes, what makes me better than anyone else? These questions keep going through my mind over and over again.
The other question that keeps my mind reeling is, are we as an organization doing enough? Are we making sure our community service projects are truly needed by the community? Are we focused on our community service efforts? CAN WE DO MORE? We can, and we must.
To ensure my family does not live with the blindness I unknowing have, I have asked each of them to volunteer this summer at the Community Kitchen here in town; and I challenge every Grange member to dig deep within themselves and truly make a difference in your community, not for the Grange, but for you.