Kristen Ryan is a Heart & Sole Campaign Associate at Project Bread. In mid February, she had the opportunity to attend one of our volunteer days, helping serve dinner at the Paulist Center's Wednesday Night Supper Club. Below, she explains how impactful this experience was.
Last month, I was thrilled to join a group of Walk for Hunger participants at the Paulist Center in Boston for its Wednesday Night Supper Club. Paulist Priest Patrick Hughes started the Walk for Hunger in 1969 so it was especially exciting to be welcomed into a place with a history that is so connected to Project Bread and the Walk.
The Wednesday Night Supper Club is a weekly free meal service provided to anyone who comes through the doors of the Paulist Center. The meals are served with dignity and respect. Rather than having to wait in line for food, all patrons are served their meals restaurant-style, offering a special night of respite for those in need.
When I arrived at the Paulist Center it was dark, cold, and rainy. We rushed inside and found the basement being transformed into a warm, cozy dining room, in pleasant contrast to the weather outside. Volunteers were unfolding round tables and organizing each place setting with care. We learned that most of these volunteers had been coming here every Wednesday for years.
The floor managers gave assignments to each volunteer, a sense of urgency in their voices. They told us that the doors would be opening early; there was already a line of people waiting outside in the rain. This quickly set the tone for us newer volunteers – the guests' needs come first.
I was on coffee duty for the night. Just like during my days working in a diner, I went around the room offering coffee to all the guests. This was especially fun because I had the opportunity to chat with the guests. They told me about their children, their history living in Boston, their knowledge of the Walk for Hunger. One guest talked to me for quite a while. He told me about his sick mother, how he wants to help her but doesn't know how. My conversation with him was honest and relatable. I could have been having this conversation with anyone.
The guests at the Wednesday Night Supper Club were no different from me, my friends, or any of us. They had the same concerns, the same desire to connect, the same addiction to coffee. I left that evening feeling inspired, grateful, and proud.
The money and time we contribute to the Walk for Hunger has a huge impact. It's one thing to understand this on a conceptual level, but there is nothing like seeing it in person. It is the best feeling to know that through my role at Project Bread and through each participant’s fundraising dollars, we can ensure that there are always unlimited refills, a vegetarian option along with meat, and tinfoil for the guests to keep their leftovers.