“G’mornin’! This may sound like a weird question; but I’m travelling the country doing volunteer work, and just passin’ through. Can I come down there today and help you out?”
“Now why would that be a strange question? Come on down here, Man!”
That’s Walter. Food Service Manager/Executive Chef at The Open Door. Over the next couple days – he would put me to work, teach me about the different types of roux, and keep me from talkin’ too-too much. (If that’s possible?) Oh yeah – and he would inspire me to keep at it, even if in this first month – I should happen to experience the worst.
I won’t go into detail about the trials he experienced long ago in another place; but here he is – 34 years later – still at it – and still smilin’.
He’s the glue. And the Big Man. (Now, you know I'm a Bruce fan. . .does a Clarence Clemons reference work here? If you ever meet Walter - yes, in every way.)
Then there was Jerry – retired Marine, and all-around sweet guy. He shows up a few times a week to help in the kitchen. And he’s no stranger to gratitude.
And Dave - the aspiring law-enforcement officer. It was his first day there, too. And why’d he show-up? Because he felt the urge to do something good in his community. The cop-thing will happen for him, no doubt.
Then Rich – a volunteer in many places. Semi-retired, he splits his time between VA and NY. In the kitchen is where he prefers to spend some of his free hours. . .and he's sure he’ll be doing a lot more of it once he throws in the corporate towel.
Enter Jamie – Program Coordinator for The Open Door. Seemingly gentle dude, with an apparently fierce passion. He runs the Code Blue Shelter, shares the good word, and has high-hopes for a year-round local men’s shelter. With the help of the team he’s on - he’ll realize that last bit, I know.
Of course – there’s Jesse. The quiet one in the back. He’s in every day – assuming the thankless role of dishwasher. I’m not sure how he does it – but there’s never a pile, and he goes home dry! What?!?!? I helped him for 10 minutes and was soaked. Should’ve taken better notes with this one, as it won’t be the last time I’ll have a sprayer in my hand.
How 'bout Neesha? This former Brooklyn-ite runs the pantry on Mondays and Thursdays:
Why? Because she likes helping people. Simple. Easy.
And Terry, and Clarence, and the ‘Three Musketeers’ as I’ve labelled them (three church friends who help-out every-so-often).
Let us not forget the guests. Some were meek, many were gregarious, all were gracious. Hard to believe that so close to a well-known, affluent summer resort – is a population in dire need of the very basics.
I just had to come back. . .
. . .Begin – Day 2.
Crystal – single ma, new to the mix. . .we reminisced about our beloved 1990s. (They’re comin’ back, Kids – be on the Dr. Marten lookout!) With her in the kitchen to chat – the morning flew by.
The Youthworks group of teens who showed up – inquisitive, eager, entirely helpful and awesome. Talk about some kids who’ve got the right ideas about stuff. . .
Next was Janie – Community Relations Woman Extraordinaire! Another member of the full-time Open Door Team, her energy is inspiring. Though she’s new to the crew – she was born with the passion for this mission. In a mid-morning lull – she pulled me away: “Take a ride with me, Brad. There’s something I want to show you.”
When we pulled into the deserted parking lot of a storied old building, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“This is the building we just bought!” she proudly exclaimed.
We spent the next half-hour touring the endless maze of rooms, and great-rooms, and staircases, and levels; discussing the amazing plans for a slew of initiatives. . .
Wow. . .all I could think was: massive.
And as I reflected upon my experience with this entire team, it became more than just the word of the day; it became the most appropriate way to describe their entire mission. Led by a seemingly fearless woman named Kim (who I’ll someday meet!) – the Open Door Team is building a small community with only the biggest ideas. The beauty is that they’re all coming to fruition.
I could’ve sat down this morning to tell you everything you already knew about a soup kitchen. But this place – like any other successful place – is about the people that are drivin’ it. They helped me more than I could’ve ever possibly helped them. And it just goes to show – so early on – that the symbiosis is real. Should I stop now that it’s proven?
No way. Gimme some mo’!