One of the realities of working in a meal program is the ever-changing population of guests and volunteers. This often means a lot of difficult goodbyes, but it also means that we are constantly welcoming eager folks into our community. Gathering staff, on the other hand, have been a consistent presence. But that all changed in late summer of 2014 with the resignations of our long time Breakfast Coordinator, George Neureuther, and our Breakfast Cook, Cary Gibson.
We have been blessed to welcome two talented and passionate staff members to the Gathering’s team: Angela Wright and Rosy Ricks. Both began working in September; Rosy as the Gathering’s Breakfast Cook, and Angela as Breakfast Coordinator. The team hit the ground running with new menus, new volunteers, and fresh ideas.
Angela came to the Gathering through her work as Dinner Program Coordinator for the St. Vincent DePaul Society’s south side meal site. Thanks to this experience, she already had a relationship with a number of our guests as well as plenty of experience running a meal program. When asked how she got involved in this line of work, she was inspired by the parable of modern day Good Samaritans, people who stop to help victims of poverty when society may not.
“The Bible tells a story of a Priest, Levite and a Good Samaritan who all came across a poor injured man in the road. The 1st question the priest and the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man what will happen to me?’ But the Good Samaritan reversed the question ‘If I don't stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’ I got involved for the opportunity to help and serve others. I believe that my purpose in life is to praise, worship and serve God. What better way to serve him than by giving and helping others?”
This answer demonstrates that Angela’s faith is a huge motivator in her chosen path. She acts out her faith daily by greeting everyone with a smile, never-ending patience, and humor. She explained that interacting with all of the people at the breakfast program is another big motivator for her.
“I have the privilege of opening up (the meal site) every morning Monday-Friday, running, ducking and dodging any ghosts that may be lurking in the dark in order to get things prepped for a group of great volunteers willing to help feed those less fortunate. Then I get to be able to talk to and meet people that are in need of a kind gesture, a little motivation, some resources, but most importantly a nice cooked meal. Thank God for the cook! (Rosy the magician can hide almost anything in her dishes), and the security from our gatekeepers, Great Lakes Security, and the assistance from always helpful Bob Heindl and smiling Deacon Ned. I really enjoy seeing God at work blessing others. I enjoy meeting individuals like Ray, Reggie, Craig, Curtis, Stephanie and Noda, just to name a few, that are living testimonies of God’s love for us.”
Angela’s faith-filled purpose and appreciation of others is made clear in the way that she interacts gently and compassionately with guests, volunteers, and even Lydia, the fabled St. James’ basement ghost. Angela has a calming presence and a deep concern for the well-being of everyone in the Gathering community. We are honored to have her as a part of our team.
Rosy has a lifetime of experience cooking and exploring unique avenues to bring about a more just food system. Whether it’s growing her own food, working in various soup kitchens, purposefully living in community, or just thinking up innovative ways to bring people around the table. She is never short of ideas, and the Gathering community has benefited.
“Everyone’s a pretty good sport when I dream up an unusual dish or start sneaking healthy things in. I like that we’ve jelled together as a flexible and functional team and that coming to work is actually something I look forward to. I also like chatting with Dennis and Jim [Gathering Operations Coordinators] when they come in and how receptive they are to my strange ingredient requests. I feel challenged in all the right ways and supported by a lot of really amazing people and I can’t say that’s something I’ve experienced too often working in nonprofits.”
We are convinced that Rosy could make a delicious, nutritious meal out of just about anything. So far her dishes have included biscuits with gravy loaded up on vegetables and meat, chicken campanile, chunky potato and meat soup, turkey or vegetarian chili, and many more. Just don’t be surprised when you see a carrot or some greens hiding in your entrée.
Rosy shared her secret to getting all the food on the table and the kitchen in order each morning.
“Mornings are pretty tough for me, but I really do love what I'm doing, so it makes getting out of bed a little easier. When I come in, there are a few regular volunteers there to do some of the daily tasks, like rolling silverware or pulling down chairs. I start by doing an inventory of the cooler, getting things into the ovens, and determining what kind of help I will need for cooking and prep tasks with Angela. I try to get a read on folks to see who has the types of skills I need for the day. Often, it's been getting meat off of bones, making stock, and prepping veggies and starches for soups and multiple ingredient dishes.”
Curtis also lends a hand every now and again with pulling meats and veggies, and Craig has the most important job of all; making sure the coffee is ready as soon as humanely possible. (Curtis and Craig are long time volunteers from the guest population.) Once we are prepped and ready to serve, I will keep one or two volunteers in the kitchen with me to help with running food to the line, or prepping for the next few day’s meals. Occasionally, I get a really exceptional kitchen volunteer, and that allows me to do more complex dishes, like the turkey and wild rice stew with cherries or Chinese style dishes.”
Is your mouth watering yet?
Angela and Rosy have worked hard the past few months managing the fast-paced, energetic atmosphere of the Gathering’s Breakfast Program. They have done it with grace, style and efficiency. We are so thankful to have them as a part of our team and we look forward to what they will be able to accomplish in 2015.