Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Day in the Life: Kitchen Edition

Katie Bauser

The Marquard Soup Kitchen…a place where not only people go to get a meal, shower, or laundry, but also to see familiar faces and feel welcomed and cared about. Working in the soup kitchen is a blessing that I wish everyone could experience. We not only get to provide services to our guests, but get to know them for who they are and not just what society perceives them to be.

It is extremely rewarding to do the work that we do because you know that people are relying on you for their needs. Our days can definitely get crazy, but it is the smiles and words of appreciation that you get to see and hear every single day that make it worth it.

So what is a day in the kitchen really like? It is filled with so much more than just cooking...

Katie shows off the kitchen's biggest ladle!

We start in the kitchen at 11am every day and have 3-4 of us full-time volunteers working. On Mondays and Fridays, we get some bread, peanut butter, jelly, snacks, etc. ready for lunch. At 12pm, guests are allowed in the building and can sign up for laundry and a shower. One person begins on getting laundry and will do a maximum of 10 loads. 

Aileen finishing up a load of laundry.

Women's showers begin right away and one of us facilitates them. The guests are allowed to make themselves a lunch and hang out in the dining hall from 12pm-3pm on Mondays and Fridays during showers. Once women's showers are done, the men begin, and someone else facilitates that.

While all of that is going on, someone else is in the kitchen preparing dinner. Common main dishes may include casseroles, Italian beef, BBQ chicken, ham over rice and beans, or spaghetti. We work until 3pm to get the meal prepared, and then from 3pm to 4pm, we go on break. 

Heating food is serious business.

Once we come back down at 4pm, we complete any last-minute things for dinner, such as wrapping silverware, setting up tables, cooking any quick food, etc. Part-time volunteers arrive around 4:30pm, and they serve the food. We try to open doors for our guests at 4:15pm so they can come in, get a number, and watch TV or hang out.

Katherine checks to see whether the chicken is up to temp.

A group of part-time volunteers begin to serve dinner.

Dinner goes from 5pm to 6:30pm and guests are called in by their number, which they receive when they sign in. We typically serve 90-120 people but it can get up to 140. I love dinner time because you get to see all the guests come in and get a good meal. It’s nice because we also get time to talk with them and see how their day was.

Katie and Enrique ready to greet guests during intake.

Once dinner ends at 6:30pm, we clean up the kitchen and make sure everything is put away for the next day. We typically finish around 7pm.

Typical note-writing exchange with one of our maintenance guys, Scotty.

We serve dinner every single day of the year, weekends and holidays included. Our laundry service is on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Guests can come and take a shower on Mondays and Fridays. We also get clothing donations so we can provide guests with clothes as needed. It’s a busy place, but the services are definitely needed and get well-used.

At the end of the day, it is our guests that motivate me and make me excited to come to work. To be such a consistent face to so many people is such a reward. My eyes, heart, and mind have been opened in ways that only this experience could create, and for that, I’m forever grateful and blessed.

Group picture of the 2015-16 kitchen crew.