Where Should I Find Soup Kitchens?
Do a quick Google search. I simply typed in Soup Kitchens in the Bay Area and voila dozens of soup kitchens popped onto the screen. I volunteered at Martha’s Kitchen and it was an amazing kitchen located in San Jose downtown. Here’s the link to their website: http://www.marthas-kitchen.org/
Other ways to find some could be by searching in the Yellow Pages. Or ask your circle of friends and contacts!
I’ve found a Soup Kitchen! What Now? How do I Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen?
Look at their website. Chances are details are stated on exactly how to proceed. If not, there should be a contact page where you can either call or email a point of contact to find out details. I would suggest instead of simply dropping in to volunteer, find out how to do so in advance. Some Soup Kitchens are okay with drop-ins, but some may require you to notify them and fill out some kind of application form.
For Martha’s Kitchen, I printed out a simple application from the website, filled it out, and took it on the day I volunteered there. I had also emailed the point of contact to check if I could drop-in and so I dropped in one day with the application.
Most places will be open a few days a week and you can pick what days work for you best. The shifts are typically four to five hours long.
What Should I Expect Once I’m There?
Excellent question! Lots of things actually. When I first got in, I was introduced to a host of people who mainly managed and ran the Soup Kitchen. They, in turn, introduced me to other volunteers, some who had dropped in for the first time and others who came in on a weekly basis.
Before the Soup Kitchen could open, lots of preparation needed to be done. Me and the other volunteers helped in setting up the kitchen, by pouring soup and other food items into the appropriate bins and jugs. Once this was done and it was time for the Soup Kitchen to open and let people in, a few volunteers helped giving the food out. Another group poured juice and milk into cups circling the tables with loads of people eating their food.
I also stood at the entrance of the Soup Kitchen, holding a bottle of sanitizer and spraying in case anyone in the line of people entering wanted to use it. Some of them chose to use the restrooms instead to freshen up instead, but it was nice to greet each person entering the Soup Kitchen.
Another awesome thing? Once people finished their meals and were leaving the Soup Kitchen, a section at the entrance was devoted to an assortment of breads. Anyone could look at the selection of breads, pick a few, and leave the Soup Kitchen free of charge. I saw families be overwhelmed with joy at having to take home the bread for their families.
After the Soup Kitchen closed the shift, all the volunteers bundled together and pulled out brooms and mops to clean the entire kitchen.
Why Should I Do It?
It was a humbling experience! I came with preconceived notions on what kinds of people would come into the Soup Kitchen. But honestly, there were people of all shapes from all ethnic and economic backgrounds. Some were single men and women, families, teenagers, seniors. I was pleasantly surprised at how positive most of these people were and the smiles adorning their faces.
As I was welcoming people into the Soup Kitchen holding a bottle of sanitizer and even as they finished their meals and walked past me, every single person except maybe one person out of the hundred people that showed up that day were polite and thanked me.
Some even hung around for ten minutes to have a conversation with me, ranging across topics from music to politics. Ultimately, they were complete human beings with desires and interests, I saw them as having multiple dimensions to their personalities.
I even connected with the other volunteers and it was a wonderful experience. One guy worked for a hot shot finance company in San Francisco, yet he volunteered at the Soup Kitchen each week. So go ahead and set up a date and volunteer at a Soup Kitchen! Believe me, you won’t regret it.
* This blog post appeared originally on My Pure Intuition
What is your biggest takeaway from this post? Please share with me in the comments!