What: A meal service program
When: Monday night, 6:30-8:45 pm
This was my first time volunteering in NYC as a part of this website, and it was a great experience. When you first arrive at All Souls Church, there is an office just inside to your left; you can tell the person sitting in there that you’re with New York Cares, and they’ll tell you where to go next. You’ll be given a brief orientation in a room off the main dining area, and then volunteers will be split into groups of 4 or 5 people which will each be given a color. When entering the dining room, you’ll see tables set up (tablecloths, ‘church china’, flowers and all) labeled by color and number, and upwards of 200 hungry people. Things get hectic really fast. At first I froze; some people were holding up their bowls asking for soup, some people yelled, others waited patiently. I just got in line for soup, took my pitcher, and began doling out portions to people sitting at my tables. Two hours fly by, and you’ll end the night breaking down tables and drying dishes. Other things you should know:
- There are roughly 30 meal service volunteers, plus maybe 15 more in the kitchen. Not everyone is from New York Cares, so feel free to talk to other people and see where they come from and what they’re about while you wait for dinner to start.
- Wear comfortable shoes; you’ll be on your feet the entire time.
- No one gets seconds until everyone get firsts (including people waiting outside for a seat to free up). People will ask if they can be the first person you give seconds to (since they may eventually run out of food); this isn’t a good agreement to make, as it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to keep the promise. Just say ‘I’ll do my best’ and move on.
- Don’t worry about having experience waiting on tables; no one is judging you.
- Stick to your section! But if you do mess up and serve someone from another group/color, the worst that you’ve done is given someone extra food. Don’t sweat it.
- If you get confused, just ask a fellow volunteer or your group leader what to do. Everyone is there to help others, including you.
- Everything is very regimented and organized. Just go with the flow and you’ll be fine.