For the second Friday in a row, I rose at o-dark-hundred. This time instead of running for two hours before work, I volunteered at the Central United Methodist Church’s A-SPAN Ministry to the Homeless. A-SPAN, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, provides a variety of services to the homeless in Arlington, VA. CUMC helps out by, among other things, providing a hot meal one morning a week. The breakfast offers a brief refuge as well as a place for A-SPAN to connect with Arlington’s homeless and get them much-needed services.
My partner-in-crime was Amanda, co-worker, friend, birthday girl, and volunteer
Over the past few years she has helped the ministry evolve from a couple of people making bagged lunches once a week into an impressive hot meal operation, plus bagged lunches to go. I’ve always known that the Ministry is a big part of Amanda’s life, but it wasn’t until I joined her in her weekly volunteer two-fer that I truly realized that it is her happy place. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her more grounded, settled, and … well, happy.
And it is a happy place. Spearhead by the most gracious, warm, and welcoming couple, Gene (front-of-house) and Jeanie (head chef, den mother), the groups that came together for Thursday evening prep (peeling, chopping, chopping, lots of chopping, and wrangling 12 dozen eggs into pre-casserole form) and Friday morning breakfast service (more peeling, chopping chopping, plus cooking and serving) were a pretty amazing bunch. Among the regulars were, just to name a few: E, the physicist, who has a mere four degrees (two majors, two minors), including math, physics, Japanese, and … art? History? Art history? I can’t remember, much less fathom the 200+ credits it took to earn them in 5 years.; R, the former marine who not only benefits from A-SPAN, but shows up with a smile, a willingness to work, and stories to pass the time; T, a soft-spoken humble sort who good-naturedly endured nosey questions about his dating life.
Thursday’s chop-fest was a low-key, relaxed but productive, affair that concluded with the volunteers sitting down to a “family” dinner. Friday had a whole other kind of energy – not stressful, but there was a quiet buzz and a purpose afoot. Most of the Thursday night volunteers returned, along with a few extra, plus the A-SPAN workers
Of course, there were also the men and women who came for the meal. I’m hesitant to write much about them, because I don’t think I can do them justice. I only worked the front line for a brief time and didn’t really get to know any of them for more than the couple of seconds it took to place a piece of chicken or a spoonful of veggies on their plate. (Chicken was a favorite; the veggies less so. Isn’t that always the way?) So all I can say really is that they were happy to have some hot food. And I was happy to serve it.