Food on the Common - Pilgrim
Church Volunteers Distribute Food to the Hungry
Posted: November 27, 2010, Nancy Conrad
It was about two years ago that the Pilgrim Church began its weekly
pilgrimage to the Boston Common -- Saturday morning -- hot and
nourishing food for the people gathered.
This is a volunteer-based effort. Yes, the Pilgrim Church is the
sponsoring agency - providing food, a kitchen for cooking, a van and a
caring clergy - Pastor John Odoms. The real success of the effort lies
with the people dedicated to rising early to make sure food can be
served downtown by 9am.
One volunteer had been active serving at the Common with the Kingston
House but they were canceling their program. Another had been
active with the Boston Rescue Mission but their schedule was in flux.
It was the right set of circumstances for a new concerted effort to gel
at the Pilgrim Church.
|Well established now, the Pilgrim Church van acts like a lighthouse to
the early morning residents of the Boston Common. But moments before
its arrival, there are no assembled crowds close to the fountain at
Tremont and Park Street - only scattered dots of people. There are,
however, lookouts posted atop the park benches.
The moment someone spies the van, the people begin their migration.
Some of the Commoners come over to the van to help.
Many know exactly where the tables will be and start forming a line.
By the time the
food is ready, the line of the hungry stretches almost all the way
around to the back of the fountain.
Pilgrim volunteers serve a delicious array of food that appears to be
deeply appreciated by the people who hungrily gobble it down.
By 9:30 am the food is gone.
- American chop suey or
- some form of pasta (ravioli is a favorite),
- rice and beans,
- a hearty soup,
- muffins and for later on,
- a chicken salad or peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
- Some coffee and juice and you're all set.
Pilgrim Church provides other forms of nourishment as well. They bring
donated bags of clothing, and on this Saturday people were almost
"Do you have any gloves? Do you have any scarves? How about
For the many people whose lives do not run by a schedule, the Pilgrim
Church van is a way to set the time of day or the day of the week.
Inherent in the event is the need to line up and move slowly towards
the serving area, and this automatically generates conversation and
close interaction. You're part of a group with a goal. It fulfills an
important social need.
Pastor John Odoms, with not a single Saturday missed in two years, has come to
know the people well. Every week he puts out an open book close to the
end of the serving area, where the tummies are warming and the taste of
food is good. It is a beautiful and inviting book.
"Write down your
prayer requests," he says, "and they will be spoken in church
tomorrow." On Sunday morning he asks his parishioners to remember the
Commoner prayers throughout the week.
"It is important to maintain the
continuity and to not forget."
|We asked him: "Besides being the head clergy of the church, what is
your contribution to "Food on the Common"?
Over the last two years,
he said, the level of cooperation among the volunteering organizations
has increased substantially. And why is that important? Because
practical matters like weather, holiday scheduling or a missing serving
ladle cannot be allowed to stop the show.
- St. Paul's Episcopal Church has granted
Pilgrim use of their covered entryway (it's right across the street) if
the weather is bad.
- If Christmas is on
a Saturday, will that affect the volunteering? The homeless and
the hungry need to receive food no matter what.
that missing soup ladle? Easy! Boston Rescue Mission has
their homeless line a few dozen feet to the left of the Pilgrim
line. Maybe they can help.
|A word about the people in line at the Common: |
Yes, some are
homeless. Some have spent the night at shelters and are looking
forward to a bowl of warm food especially in the cold weather.
people are not homeless but are hungry. There are families close to
downtown Boston who try, as best they can, to provide for their large extended
family. The reality is this: They do not have enough food to go
around. Food on the Common provides the additional sustenance these
Seasonal clothing is much appreciated. In the cold time of year gloves,
scarves and warm coats are in high demand.
DO NOT leave bags of
clothing unattended at the church. Please call the church -
617-282-0456, leave a message and someone will get back to you
shortly. Making arrangements to drop off the closing is the right way
to make sure your donation makes a difference.
The Pilgrim van can hold nine passengers, tables, food and supplies.
Pastor Odoms and the rest of the regular crew would love to have new
volunteers. Some weeks they're short, and some weeks not everyone can
fit. Call in advance. Yes, you will have to get up early but it's
well worth it.
|One of today's volunteers was Michael Pierre. He grew up a Bostonian
in Mattapan and has since moved to Maryland - has a family there.
Thanksgiving time draws Michael back to Boston with memories of his
childhood and growing up and lots of family still here. We asked him:
"On such a short stay in Boston what could possibly draw you to spend
time feeding people at the Boston Common?" His answer says miles about
"I believe in giving back. I tell my family, I tell my friends on
Facebook. If you have the time, please try to help out."
"You know, there's something special about volunteering and serving
food on the Boston Common. You can tell people appreciate what you're
doing. They're getting food for their bodies. But I'm also getting
fed. I'm getting food for my soul."
Pilgrim Church 617-282-0456