Joe Whiteman, the head chef, assigned us our tasks. I made iced tea and chopped vegetables for a tossed salad. Others filled ice buckets and set tables. One of the soup kitchen's founders, Father Randy Webster, advised us to treat the people who come like guests in a restaurant. So as our 30 guests filled the eight round tables around the large basement room, we placed a salad in front of each of them, followed by meatballs and pasta with white sauce.
At one table I met Victoria, 62. She had been a journalist before a bout of depression and a bankruptcy, and comes for a "nutritional and morale boost." The soup kitchen, she said, is like a family: "Food is what brings us together." Feeling that same sense of community, I was already looking forward to my next stint serving people in need.