Feeding the Hungry Along the Shoreline

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All our heartfelt thanks to those in our community who work so hard to help feed our neighbors in need.

The first night I volJeaninnecookingunteered at the Essex Baptist meal site I was serving dinner with one hand, and holding my son on my hip with the other. The volunteers and guests, most of them older than me, wondered if I would keep coming back. They saw a divorced single mother of a two-year-old, just out of law school, working to build a fledgling legal practice. At the end of that first day, it wasn’t my life story that took my energy; I was completely exhausted by the heaviness I felt at seeing a glimpse into the lives of the many struggling guests. I continued to cook and serve monthly, with my son, Nicolas, on my hip, and later, by my side. That was eleven years ago.

Over the years, I have gotten to know the guests, and our nights at the meal site together are filled with friendly chatter and sometimes words of comfort. Being a meal site volunteer has been an eye-opening experience, and one that has had a significant impact on both me and my son.

Many nights Nicolas would help out by sweeping the floor after the meal was finished. He had a running joke with Reverend Crane about who would get to take home the table linens to wash them. Of course, when my son would “win”, I would end up doing the laundry! For many years Nicolas, when asked what he would like for his birthday or as a Christmas present, would never answer. If he did, he asked for something very little or inexpensive. When he turned 12, I asked him, “Why do you never ask for anything for your birthday? I never know what to tell people to get you.” I never expected the answer he gave me that day, after all my years of wondering. He never asked for birthday or Christmas gifts, he explained, because he had seen others, our neighbors and friends, who had so little, and he felt wrong asking for anything for himself.

When I was in junior high school, my parents divorced, and my mother supported three teenage girls by working three jobs while she attended college to earn a bachelor’s degree. Looking back, we probably could have been on food stamps. I sometimes wondered how my mother was able to put food on the table, but it was always there, even if it wasn’t a gourmet offering. Having experienced what we considerately refer to today as “food insecurity”, I certainly would never wish for anyone to experience those feelings of fear, adult or child.

Today, I love to cook. I’m a foodie, and I love to collaborate on creative ideas for the meal site dinners. Sometimes we cook “breakfast for dinner” with quiche, French toast and hash browns. No matter what the meal is, the most important part is the fellowship; and I enjoy my time with the guests.

This year I joined the Board of Directors at SSKP, in addition to serving at the meal site in Essex. Being on the SSKP Board has given me a deeper sense of purpose in the SSKP mission. On the Board, we discuss strategic planning to combat food insecurity; so no one in the communities we serve will go without the basic need of food.

God has always provided for me. I enjoy extending my hand in care to my neighbors to ensure they have food and a place at the table. I hope for many productive years on the SSKP Board.


 
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