Volunteering at the Soup Kitchen

Today I got up and got ready for my interview with the soup kitchen, called the Dover Friendly Kitchen.  This all started a couple weeks ago when I met a homeless man Eugene.  We have worked our way of becoming friends, and he told me about the Friendly kitchen.  A blog ago, I was quite insensitive, I suggested that when I was done with my PhD, I would then take the time to learn the problems of homelessness.  I am embarrassed that is what I wrote but not surely what I meant.  I admittedly have never known a homeless person, and homelessness I knew basically nothing about.

I corrected myself after that I don’t want to get dirty blog, and vowed to get involved with the Dover Kitchen, as well as anything I might learn on my interview to help make a small contribution to this seemingly epidemic problem.  True to my word, and Eugene my friend, I called the Friendly Kitchen. Today was the first day since my second leg operation I could schedule an appointment.

The Friendly Kitchen is very familiar to me, as it held in the Episcopal church I attend every Sunday.  The woman who met me, who was named Irene, seemed to be in her mid to late fifties.  She took one look at me, and said honey please don’t take this wrong, but I don’t think you will like it here.  Puzzled, and wondered what about me made her say that, I went on to explain I was a PhD student, had met Eugene, on more than one occasion, and wanted quite desperately to see if there was something I could do to volunteer at the kitchen twice a week and learn of anything else I might be able to do, because all of a sudden homelessness was very important to me as well as my girlfriend Stephanie.

Irene went on that she never got my type of help.  People with homes and good lives, especially the young ones they didn’t care to help this needy group of people out a couple nights a week.  I said well I am just as guilty, and Eugene and I have become friends.  She warned me to be careful because sometimes people ask you for more than is fair or right. I said for sure I understood, and that Eugene was my only friend I helped him out when I saw him.

Irene looked me up and down, and said you mustn’t be more than 25 at the most.  I laughed out loud and we both had a laugh, as I told her I was turning 40 in October.  She said it didn’t matter anyhow, they were always short an extra pair of hands on Tuesday and Thursday when they hosted the Friendly Kitchen dinner.  She said follow me back I have baking to do, we can talk while I finish the rolls.  She mentioned to me the staff was always turning over.  That she and this man, named Tom, were really the only two steadies of the group.  She said it was easier in the spring and the summer to pick up the help. She explained so much to me, I felt about 6 inches tall, for not knowing shit about homelessness especially in my own town.  I ask her what I might be able to do, I had never had a real job in a kitchen, but with a little instruction, I would be good to go wherever I might be needed.

She asked me when I wanted to start, and I said, “Is tonight to soon?”  She laughed again, and said “No tonight would be fine I would get to meet the crew.  However she emphasized it was going to be important for me to connect directly with the entire community.”  I said that sounded great, what hours was she looking for on Tuesday and Thursdays.  She said whenever you can get here, anytime between by 3;00 pm and 4;30 at the latest.  I said I will be here on Tuesday and Thursdays for 3 pm sharp.  I then asked her, “What time we were finished.”  She said, Usually by 7;15 but if I needed to live earlier that wasn’t a problem.  I told her now this was my only volunteering position at that moment.

I asked what forms I would need to fill out and she handed a packet from an organized folder.  “Fill these out before you return, and I have your number so we should be all set.”  Irene, was so very kind, she took me aside, and said, “Your different than  them and your different than the other workers.  No one will bite but some will keep there distance.”  She said I know I don’t need to tell you this, “But always treat them with dignity and respect.”  I looked her right in her pale blue eyes, and told her that, “I know I might appear one way, I hope everyone gives me a fair chance. I see this as an honor and privilege to work with such a beautiful group of people.” “Alright Corey, I cant wait to here the chatter that you stir up tonight” “Oh Irene, one more thing, what exactly should I wear?”  “Just jeans and t-shirt and better make them clean!”

I left the parish kitchen, feeling one step closer to learning my way in this awful situation where people are forced to live their lives.  I was kinds proud I had stuck to my plan, now I was committed to the Dover Friendly Kitchen.  I thought of only one person on my way back, of course it was Eugene.  I took the chance and dialed his phone, “Hello,” “Hi Eugene this is Corey. I wanted you to know that I start working at the Dover Friendly Kitchen at 3 pm sharp.”  “Good for you, my sweet prince!” I am very surprised you went in to talk to them.” “Eugene,” I told I would.” “I know Corey, you are just a little bit different.”  “Alright Eugene, I will see you tonight.” “Sounds good Corey, I will see you later.”

I hung up the phone and felt instantly lost…I was so far from my comfort zone.  What would my family and friends think when I told them I was volunteering?  I guess I just don’t want to be like my friends and family; so far removed from anything real.  I hoped I wouldn’t get a rashes of shit. My sweet Stephanie was 100 percent behind me no matter what.

So I am doing it, well just a little bit, but I am sure I will learn lots more about homelessness.  Today I was a blogger with a greater purpose: to bring everyone’s attention to the ever growing homeless situation.  I am nerves about being understood for me.  It is a day for that date book, I am no longer offering to discuss homelessness, without getting dirty and personally involved.  I feel so real and so raw, I am going to take a rest, before I volunteer for my very first shift.  This is all dedicated to that grump of a man, who tries really hard not to call me a ‘faggot.’  Lots on my mind and I will try to blog later.  I need some sleep and to do some writing.  Maybe I will if I try really hard, use my education to do bigger things.  I guess that is for later, and know is time for a rest.  I am so excited to go volunteer tonight.  Stephanie will want to hear every detail…..I hope I can remember them all.