Friday, 14 December 2012

Food for thought

Yesterday with a group of other staff from Wolverhampton Homes, I helped out at the Little Brothers of Good Shepherd Christmas Dinner. The Little Brothers do an incredible job running the soup kitchen on School Street in Wolverhampton and usually give out soup (bowls of meat, veg and potatoes as a stew) three days a week. On the days in between they serve food from 'the window' (a kind of hatch in the wall) and also offer a place to exchange dirty drug needles for clean ones. During December they serve several Christmas dinners for people in need.

There were two sittings; one at 12noon and one at 1pm for the dinner; I was on the second one. I turned up, was given a plastic apron and gloves and told to 'get stuck in'. At first I felt a bit like a spare part as people rushed around me, seating people, plating up, setting tables, clearing away and wiping down. Soon I cottoned on to the pattern of work around me and could see when people needed help. I was given the important job of Gravy Monitor (!) which meant I had to run behind the person who was serving the food and offer gravy to the diners.

While I was there, 200 people must have come through. They were seated at tables of 6-8 people and everyone got a turkey dinner (with stuffing, bacon wrapped sausages, carrots, sprouts and potatoes), a chocolate pudding with custard and a plate of goodies for each table kindly donated by Greggs (eclairs, cream buns, cakes).The Salvation Army played music as we served and everywhere was decorated with tinsel.

Lots of the people in there looked like they had extremely hard lives, some seemed to be on drugs and others seemed more 'well-to-do' but all of them were grateful for the help that was being offered. As each person left they were given a bag of useful bits and pieces collected by the church including shower gel, toothpaste and flannels. Despite it being a place for people who were in dire need, there was a great atmosphere and lots of laughter. By the end of the sitting, we were all worn out from running around  but it was a good feeling to have helped in some small way.

That good feeling was only tarnished by sadness at the tragedy that in 2012, in Britain, soup kitchens are needed. In October, 6,000 people used the Little Brothers' soup kitchen. It would be so easy to fall into a negative spiral and end up homeless - all it takes is a failed relationship, some bad debt and any one of us could be on the streets or, like many of the people I met today, unable to afford to heat their homes so using a soup kitchen as a way of keeping warm. It breaks my heart that as a society we can let this happen, but I am proud to work for the kind of organisation that wants to help and does something about it.

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