Kitchen Equipment to Help Feed Bodies and Souls
Mary Ann Milobar
Kamloops United Church
421 St Paul Street, Kamloops, BC
October 13, 2011
Will the ovens work today? What ingredients will we have to work with? How much do we need to prepare? Are the refrigerators big enough to hold the food? Preparing this meal is like a reality T.V. show challenge. These are challenges facing PIT (People In Transition) Stop volunteers each week as they prepare, serve and clean-up the only hot meal for 150 to 180 people at the Kamloops United Church. PIT Stop serves the only meal, on Sundays, to members of the community who may be homeless, low income, transient, lonely or the working poor. The kitchen, built in the 1950's, is stretched to meet the growing need at PIT Stop and the other programs such as the drug and addiction support groups that also use the kitchen. The church plans to undertake a renovation including a new kitchen in 2012 but no money has been raised for new equipment.
Various community groups volunteer on a rotational basis to make the meal. The combination of community service and appreciation of the clients inspires individuals and teams to volunteer again and again. "I want to make sure we can serve the best food possible to guests but old and less than reliable equipment makes it difficult. One donated fridge has no shelves and the stove can vary in temperature by 50 degrees" says Rose Soneff, volunteer cook and team leader. "I know that this may be the only meal guests have that day and the only time that week that they may sit down with others to enjoy a meal - something you and I take for granted."
The PIT Stop budget is a meager $1 per person per meal which leaves nothing to try and set aside money for kitchen equipment. Everyone has a right to wholesome hot food served with dignity and nurturing community inclusion. See the guests' faces after a PIT Stop meal and you'll see why your support will help feed the body and soul.
__These stories illustrate why so many of us volunteer at PIT Stop___
50 Cents, 75 Cents or a Buck
Every Sunday when it is the Health Unit’s team’s turn to cook at PIT (People in Transition) Stop , an older gentleman – rough around the edges and skinny as the proverbial rail, comes up to the volunteers and profusely thanks us for the meal. He always gives us a donation to PIT Stop, maybe 50 cents, or 75 cents or a buck but always. His generosity and thankfulness, knowing his life is much tougher than ours, makes me continue to volunteer at PIT Stop. Should we ever get the kitchen equipment, I would like to invite him as our first participant in a new Community Kitchen.
Eating Together One of our guests hangs back once everyone is finished eating and offers to put tables and chairs away. I got the chance to talk to him and he told me something that touched my heart. He said that coming for the PIT (people In Transition) Stop meal was one of the few times in a week he may sit down with others, have a meal and feel like he belongs. Often people see him coming down the street and will make it a point to look down as they pass him, or worse, cross the street and walk on the other side to avoid him. Let’s not take for granted the privilege of being able to eat together.
Hey, Chinese Lady! One day, someone yelled this at me. I looked around and there was no other oriental person around, so I asked, was he talking to me. He said, “Yea, aren’t you the lady who makes us Chinese Food at PIT Stop? When are you gonna make it again? Can you make Sweet and Sour Pork, it’s my favourite”. I usually make Chinese food at PIT (People in Transition) Stop, a great way to get them to eat vegetables and a treat. However, our 14-16 volunteers are kept busy preparing and cooking. Just ask the volunteers who are asked to cook the 25 packages of noodles the Chinese way (boiled, seasoned and then cooked in the oven). The appreciation is so evident, as little is thrown away – literally, licking their plates and asking if there are seconds. A little pleasure in a week of hardship.
Are we too late? It was a very hot Sunday afternoon during the summer, and the guests were almost finished when a mom and her 4 kids came into PIT (People In Transition) Stop. I will never forget the frantic look in the mother’s eyes. She asked, “Are we too late? Is there any dinner left? Our car broke down on the Overlander Bridge and we had to walk here.” We reassured her that there was still food and sat them down for a meal, and even put together a care package for them to take home. They left with many thanks and the frantic look was lessened… but not gone.
Pay it Forward
A gentleman walked into the office at the church, location of the PIT Stop’s hot meal offered every Sunday to 150-180 marginalized community members. He put a large margarine container down and said it was for PIT Stop. He had been a regular guest, maybe down on his luck. He left not wanting a receipt. The secretary opened the container, filled with coins, several hundred dollars. He never came back -the need was gone but the thanks was there.