By definition, volunteering is the act of freely giving time “to benefit another person, group, or organization.” But what does it mean to volunteer at the largest soup kitchen in New York City during a global pandemic, where social, or rather physical, distancing is mandated? While our volunteer program is temporarily suspended, the show must go on as we continue to serve on the front lines of New York City’s food crisis. We recently checked in with some loyal members of our community to hear their perspective on volunteering at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen and how they are spending their time during COVID-19 while our volunteer program is “on pause.” (Responses may have been edited for brevity.)
When asked what Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen represents to him, in five words or less: caring, selfless, hope, and change immediately come to mind for Larry Williams. A volunteer counselor who also oversees our twice-weekly computer lab, Larry is dedicated to the soup kitchen’s social services program and the lives it is able to impact on a regular basis.
Q: What have you learned about yourself through this “pause” from day-to-day life in New York City?
A: I have learned that I can be okay with staying by myself for a long period. I have been eating in a lot more and missed going to my local diner and restaurants with my girlfriend. I like to bake so I made a cake from scratch. I haven’t done this in a long time. (Editor’s Note: We’ll work on getting Larry’s cake recipe!)
Q: What have you learned about food insecurity/poverty, and the people this issue affects, through volunteering at HASK? Do you have any special/memorable guest moments?
A: I have met many different people while volunteering and the best thing that comes out of that interaction is when they come back to me and indicate that I help them. I may have suggested an agency for a job or housing and then they come running back with a smile on their face.
Q: During uncertain times, what words of encouragement would you offer specifically to children who are HASK guests or volunteers?
A: I have grandchildren who I have spoken to about this pandemic. They are doing what is set in front of them in terms of school. One of them had a big birthday planned that was canceled due to COVID-19. She was very disappointed but was able to understand why. I would say to the children who are guests or volunteers to do the best they can every day because this will not last always. You will be strong and tell the next generation how you dealt with this.