With more than 300 meals served and 40 volunteers, this Saturday Community Dinner at Welcome is typical of what you would find any 2nd or 4th Saturday of the month.
I began cooking the chili at 3pm. With nearly 10 years experience cooking for the homeless and hungry, I've got cooking for large groups down to a science. Tonight's meal cost about $750 in total (donations from volunteers, in-kind donations and from facebook friends paid for tonight's meal). Other nights AA groups, interfaith groups or meditation groups bring the food.
Volunteers begin arriving at 4pm and then start setting up tables for our guests.
Volunteers also sort toiletries and clothing that are donated by congregations around the Bay Area. We give away hundreds of clothing and toiletry items at ever dinner.
Since I my blog posts are read widely and I travel often around the country sharing the work of Welcome with congregations, sometimes we receive donations from outside the Bay Area. This week, a box of socks arrived from St. Andrews Lutheran Church in San Mateo, CA.
After the donations are sorted, around 4:30pm the desserts are cut and put on plates. Cake is a favorite of our guests. Since the craving for sugary foods are similar to those for drugs, we give our guests many sugary foods through out the evening to enable those working on their sobriety to battle their cravings.
Steve, seen below, brings bread and candy that he begins handing out to guests waiting outside in line around 5pm. Steve also chats with the guests and helps to ensure that they are treating each other with respect and mindful of neighbors who live nearby.
Around 5:15pm all the volunteers gather to set their intentions for the evening. Instructions are given and volunteers are able to ask questions about the dinner before it starts.
At 5:30 guests arrive, find their seats and the volunteers begin to serve our guests.
Sometimes a guest or volunteer will hop on the piano and play some tunes for our guests.
Meals are served from 5:30 - 7pm.
After the meal, volunteers help clean dishes, the bathrooms and the kitchen. Clean up typically finishes between 7 and 8pm.