By Jo Rodgers
On our first visit to the Van Buren Shelter, the very first task we were given was to slice hams. A bunch of hams. We were told to cut the slices nice and evenly, about ¼” thick. It sounds simple, but you should have seen our slices. A few were beautiful; most were a lopsided parallelogram of meat. Ms. Nadine told us that the shelter desperately needed a slicer, and obviously we agreed, but that it was simply not a priority item in their budget.
Ms. Nadine, along with Mr. Jeff, are the amazing people who are responsible for all the prepping, cooking, and cleaning at the Van Buren Shelter on the Sunday nights when we have been volunteering. These two ensure that hundreds of women and children are fed, and we have had the honor of helping with that task.
When we volunteer, we help with every duty that goes into feeding a large number of people. While we are there, they serve food to the single women and to the families that are staying at the shelter. Some of us serve the meal. Others slice, dice, chop, peel, sort, wash, or purée items for use in upcoming meals. We wash dishes – a whole lot of dishes – and clean up the kitchen and cafeteria when we are done.
The Van Buren Shelter can house up to 2,000 people. It has longer term housing to help the residents transition out of homelessness and overnight housing for those in need. They provide assistance in locating permanent housing and employment. The shelter also maintains a health center for medical and behavioral issues.
Our most recent visit to the shelter was a little different though. We waited for Ms. Nadine in the lobby, and when she arrived the first thing she said was, “You saved them!” As we were heading in she asked if we were there to help her cook. We told her that this time we were just there to drop off a gift. We watched Ms. Nadine as she opened our present and saw her face light up when she saw the “Slicer” label on the box.
As we were leaving, she brought up that she had seen that we had Saved The Crew. She had told her daughter about us coming in to help. Ms. Nadine said that we had Saved The Crew but that we were HER crew. Just one day after the final announcement of our team being saved, we were given a new job. We are Nadine’s Crew and we are not done yet.
Save The Crew will be volunteering two Sunday’s a month from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Van Buren Shelter. Look for sign ups on Twitter and Facebook. January is already full, but additional February opportunities will be posted soon.