Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Volunteering at The INN

Over the winter break, we traveled as an office on a day-long retreat to volunteer at The INN. The INN is located in Hempstead and started out as a small soup kitchen that over time grew to become the largest private social service agency of its kind on Long Island. Anyone who comes to The INN’s soup kitchens receives a hot, nutritious meal, a warm welcome and access to a multitude additional support services that include anything from clothing to household supplies.

Not knowing what the experience would entail, I prepared myself for a variety of possible situations. Upon arriving and settling in, each member of our office was introduced to the management and other volunteers and given tasks. Myself, and two other co-workers, Darlene and Suzanne, volunteered to be on "turkey duty" where we helped to prepare the turkey for lunch. We wore hair nets and aprons and looked pretty silly, but had a great time doing it. 

After a few hours of food preparation, it came time to serve lunch. The dining area was cafeteria style and fit around 300 people at one time. Each server was required take a tray, fill it with food and serve it to each waiting individual taking care to follow the managers directions at all times. The scene during lunch was controlled chaos. I only remember tripping over other volunteers and diners as I flew back and forth to repeat the same sequence over and over again;  grab a tray, re-fill it with all necessary food items, and serve it to the next person. The hardest part about serving was that some diners would try to trick you into thinking they were not served which resulted in them getting served twice before other waiting diners had been served at all. With all the people filling the room, it was difficult to keep track of each face. 

Overall, the experience was hard, humbling, and eye-opening work. By the end of the day I was exhausted and sore and I wondered how the other volunteers did this on a weekly basis. I give them and the managers who run The INN A LOT of credit. It was also especially grounding and shocking to see the amount of hungry people in need just in the Hempstead area alone. It made me feel grateful for what I have and happy that there is a such a great place were people in need can go to to get help. 

-Kaitlyn Riley, Graduate Assistant 

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