For many years, Preble Street has been helping to feed asylees seeking shelter in Portland. While the Expo location is now closed, we are continuing to work together with volunteers to make meals for our new neighbors. As always, we are closely monitoring the situation and will make every effort to support those in need in our community.
Topic: Food Programs
This month, we are excited to highlight a volunteer who loves to dig in and get her hands dirty. The July Volunteer of the Month, Virginia Eddy, is in her happy place when she is elbows-deep in dishes.
Every shift she works, she settles in at the dish pit, gives a big joyful sigh of contentment, and says: “I can’t think of a place I would rather be right now. I really mean it!” And she does.
Virginia is a master of strategy, an essential part of keeping up with dishes in a busy kitchen, and does it all while greeting every client and caseworker with kindness as they hand over their plate, eager to hear about their day and their meal.
One of her best qualities is her ability to greet even the toughest situations with an unflappable get-it-done mentality. Florence House Kitchen Operating Assistant Philippa remembers a day when “Virginia showed up early, a bright smile on her face, to find me, the floor, and the wall covered in tomato sauce. She held in her laughter, told me everything was going to be okay, and asked how she could help. She got the job done and we pulled together a great dinner.”
Virginia makes every meal even better by keeping things in top working order and filling the kitchen with a graceful ease. She embodies the Food Programs value that these kitchens are “welcoming places where all are treated with respect and empathy.”
Thank you, Virginia, for tackling the dirtiest dishes, the hardest days, and the difficult work of ending homelessness and food insecurity with your wonderfully positive spirit and pure, respectful warmth.
Preble Street serves 1,200 meals every day at three soup kitchens, and in addition we’re providing 600 extra meals daily to our new neighbors from around the world. Watch this video to learn more and see the work in action!
When a retiring weekend volunteer decided to pass the spatula along to the next generation, Emily Wasserman willingly took over.
Every weekend, Emily rises before the sun to serve a beautiful, nutritious breakfast at the Resource Center Soup Kitchen with love, patience, and the imagination of a “Chopped” champ.”
I wanted to become part of a community that is welcoming and cares about the issues of homelessness and food insecurity in Maine,” she says. “People deserve to be valued and taken care of, and I get to spend time with a bunch of genuine, kind, funny people. What could be better than that?”
Thank you, Emily, for all that you do to help our neighbors in need!
When Peter is in the kitchen, people are laughing, smiling, and in high spirits.
“Chef Peter” began volunteering at the Resource Center Soup Kitchen several years ago as a member of the St. Alban’s Episcopal Church of Cape Elizabeth, a dedicated monthly volunteer group. In addition, Peter volunteers several times a week on his own.
The unassuming leadership “he shows at all times is touching, and he makes people feel welcome and at ease,” remark kitchen staff. “He may have thought he was flying under the radar, just doing his part, but we have all noticed and appreciate him!”
Thank you, Peter, for your gracious approach to service, quiet leadership, and unfailingly positive attitude!
Preble Street is truly honored to be the recipient of a $13,534.01 Hunger Is grant from Shaw’s and Star Market Foundation! Shaw’s is a longtime supporter of hunger relief causes, and this year’s Hunger Is campaign was the most successful yet. In addition to raising money, Shaw’s donates food from its stores and distribution centers. This equates to millions of dollars in food and financial donations each year to help people who need it most.
Thanks to our Shaw’s partners and their many customers who donated to support our organization, children in our area will get a healthy breakfast each day. Hunger Is beatable!
It’s been almost 10 years since Melodie Wilson started volunteering at Florence House to help serve upwards of 50 women a warm dinner every Wednesday evening. Florence House — a Housing First facility in Portland exclusively for women — opened just shy of a decade ago, with 15 semi-private living spaces, up to 25 emergency shelter beds, and 25 permanent furnished efficiency apartments for chronically homeless women.
“I began volunteering for Florence House after reading about its mission and partnership with L.L.Bean,” says Melodie, an L.L.Bean employee. “I thought it would be a great way to transition into ‘empty nesting’ while learning more about my community and its needs.”
When Florence House first opened, L.L.Bean helped procure many of the furnishings for the apartment units through donations from their home goods store. L.L.Bean was instrumental in making sure the women at Florence House had the comforts they needed to begin their life anew in safe, stable housing. Nearly a decade later, L.L.Bean continues to support Florence House and other Preble Street programs by encouraging its employees to volunteer — we are certainly grateful to have a seasoned veteran volunteer like Melodie!
Melodie helps prepare, serve, and clean up weekly dinners at Florence House. She chops, bakes, and ladles her way through delicious dishes while making the 50+ women who join for a hot meal smile and feel welcome. Florence House kitchen staff member Katherine nominated Melodie to be the volunteer of month saying, “Melodie is a breath of fresh air! She’s ready to do whatever needs to be done and is often one step ahead of me! She’s wonderful at interacting with clients — she exudes a warm, gentle presence everyone picks up on.”
While Melodie is quick to point to the gratitude and perseverance of the clients who live at Florence House as a major motivation for coming back, she is also incredibly generous and kind to the staff. “They’re passionate, and a caring beacon of hope for these women,” she notes. “But I’m often reminded that it’s tough work too, and it’s been nice to be a steady presence for them.’”
Thank you, Melodie, for providing stable support to both the clients and staff at Florence House. You are a wonderful sous-chef and we are so grateful for your many hours of service!
At Preble Street, a wellspring of institutional knowledge lives and breathes in the form of volunteers. The Volunteer of the Month for August, Kristin Lindvall, has been volunteering at the Resource Center Soup Kitchen longer than many staff members have been working there. Her kindness towards staff and clients, her endless repertoire of delicious meals, and her voracious work ethic make Kristin one of the most integral and reliable Preble Street volunteers.
Many kitchen staff remember when she taught them how to use the industrial equipment for the first time. One says, “When I started working here, I knew how to cook, but it was Kristin who taught me how to make complicated and delicious meals for 250 people with the ever-changing and limited pantry options we have.”
Kristin’s approach to the people we serve is both empathetic and realistic—being familiar with many of the specific obstacles facing clients at Preble Street informs the work of all staff and volunteers. She is honest and realistic with individuals, and about the broader issues facing our society. Solutions to problems with housing, mental health, and food insecurity are always at the forefront of her mind, and she reminds us all to remain compassionate towards people who are struggling. “She knows many of our clients and treats everyone with dignity and respect,” says a coworker.
Kristin also reminds staff and volunteers to take care of themselves by modeling her own self care. She is excellent about communicating to staff when she needs to take a break. Kristin reminds us all that we cannot serve from an empty cup, and that taking time to take care of ourselves is just as important to our work as the chopping of veggies, the bagging of lunches, and the serving of meals.
As one staff member put it so beautifully, “Kristin is the glue that holds us all together.” Thank you, Kristin, for teaching us all to make delicious food, to lead with grace, and to take care of others by taking care of ourselves.
As the old adage goes, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. In mid-July, with ovens and stoves cranking to cook enough food for the 250+ people who join us for every meal, the Resource Center Soup Kitchen can get hot. But July’s Volunteer of the Month, John Reali, is no stranger to heat in the kitchen—John owned and operated the Village Café, a local favorite for decades on Newbury Street in Portland. Today, we are so lucky to have John preparing lunch for our neighbors three days a week at the Preble Street Resource Center Soup Kitchen, sharing his passion for good food, his infectious humor, and his gracious, humble approach to service.
John is the kind of volunteer who can do whatever is needed, whether it’s chopping a bunch of veggies or creating an entire meal from scratch.
But being good in the kitchen isn’t all it takes to be named a Preble Street Volunteer of the Month. Many can wield a knife or stir a pot, but not everyone can keep a cool head in a busy kitchen environment, especially in the heat of summer. Even in the most chaotic circumstances, John remains completely unflappable and entirely flexible. As one Food Programs staff person said, “I’m always impressed that he shows up to work fully present and engaged in what we are doing.”
An ever-present challenge at the Resource Center Soup Kitchen is the need to create a good, healthy meal out of the random ingredients donated to Preble Street. After running his own restaurant for so many years, John is “an ingenious master of cobbling together ingredients from a limited, ever-changing, and sometimes bizarre pantry of donated foods, successfully cooking meals that not only feed many, but are incredibly delicious,” said Philippa, a Food Programs staff member.
Yet John’s greatest gift, more than his steady hand or his creative approach to cooking, is the incredible balance he maintains between leadership and being lead. Many volunteers who join us in the soup kitchen every day have little to no experience cooking professionally—not even all our talented kitchen staff have John’s breadth and depth of knowledge. He gently directs volunteers of all ages and levels of experience while lending a hand to staff wherever is needed. He does it kindly, and he does it with a smile. “Every shift we work together is a different balance of how much he or I take the lead and he is fine with literally any amount or lack of leadership,” said Food Programs staff member Deena. “He’s humble and flexible.”
John is a leader and mentor to fellow volunteers, an invaluable resource of knowledge and accountability to staff, and a wonderful friend to all who cross his path. When asked what kind of food John would be, staff summed him up perfectly: “A perfectly seasoned tomato sauce, the backbone of a variety of meals… just like John!”
Thank you, John, for your compassion, flexibility, and perfectly seasoned sauces! We could not do it without you.