Saturday, May 14, 2011

{Giving Back} Sunday Supper to Feed Friends

“The ultimate expression of generosity is not in giving of what you have, but in giving of who you are.”
                                                                    -Johnnetta B. Cole

A few months ago I wrote about the breakfast put on by students at Armbrae Academy to support the Brunswick Street Mission {read about it here}.  I had been asked by Charlotte Fillmore, the school community service coordinator, to help with the breakfast.  Recently we met again and talked about other charitable initiatives we are both passionate about. 

Students at Armbrae Academy in the Senior School must complete 30 hours of community service as part of their extra curricular activities for the year.  Charlotte facilitates and organizes the community service opportunities and students can chose from a list of organizations where they can donate their time.  Volunteering can include school events, charitable organizations, and other community areas in need.

Charlotte and I made a plan to chaperone students to St. Andrews Church for their Sunday Supper.  I had heard about these Sunday Suppers and had been wanting to volunteer there for some time.  The suppers started 27 years ago as a response to feeding the homeless, poor, and those in need of extra help.  Every Sunday volunteers from all over come to help prepare and serve a plentiful hot meal to as many as 200 individuals.  Typically, a group volunteers to provide the food and cook the meal, others come to donate desserts, serve up platters of treats and serve the food. 

When I think about a Sunday Supper....I think about a typical soup kitchen, cafeteria style, where people go through the line to pick up their tray of food.  I was amazed to realize that at St. Andrews all the meals are served....we as the volunteers have the opportunity to walk around pouring juice, offering extra helpings, and talking with the many people who gather there. 

On the Sunday evening that we attended the supper there was a huge number of volunteers!  School groups, church groups, individuals, everyone there to support the many that came in out of the rain for a meal and some conversation.  It wasn't hard to find something to do, these suppers are a well oiled machine.  Tables and chairs have to be set up in the hall, trays of desserts have to be prepared, recycling organized, utensils wrapped in napkins, bags of food put together for take home, and the list goes on and on.  Since the supper doesn't actually get served until 5 pm there was time beforehand to speak with other volunteers as well as organizers.  I learned that although there were over 40 volunteers there the evening we went, some nights there are only 10 and in the summer months the numbers can be very low.  It was something I put in the back of mind to remember for this summer....

About 20 minutes before serving time we gathered in a room and were given instructions and advice from one of the Sunday Supper founders.  She spoke about the suppers being more like a community dinner party rather than a traditional soup kitchen.  She referred to the people who come every Sunday as our friends and reminded us to make eye contact, smile, and engage them in conversation.  I was emotional as I listened to her talk about how many of these friends are ignored every day, brushed aside, and that when they come to the supper its a place for them to feel welcome and cared about.  I quickly thought about the last time I walked past someone on the street, in search of money or food, and just kept walking. 

At 5 pm the entire hall turned into a bustle of activity.  I volunteered to serve up plates of food, then passed them through the service window to a volunteer who served them directly to our friends.  Within 5 minutes every person in the hall had a full plate of food, stacked high with shepherds pie!  Once all the meals were served we went around passing out to-go bags of pizza that Little Ceasars Pizza donates every Sunday.  These Sunday Suppers are supported by Little Ceasars Pizza, Feed Nova Scotia and Sobeys as well as many general public participants that keep things going.  Not a single Sunday has been missed in 27 years.

This experience, like so many of the projects I have worked on, reminds me that there is a world full of people struggling to make the tiniest ends meet.....but what is happening in my community seems to have the greatest impact on me.

In the coming months of Summer, when we are all enjoying the sun and relaxation of the warm months, opportunities to give back are still there.  If you love to bake you can drop off dessert donations every Sunday or volunteer for 2 hours any Sunday evening.

For more information about St. Andrew's Sunday Suppers, visit here.

This is a small way to give back but it makes a difference....when a friend at the supper came up to me and personally thanked me for his meal I knew that this small act had touched a life.  This experience was very moving for me, and finding those moments are very precious.


  1. Wow! This is amazing! Great work, Jennifer! And fantastic work by all the volunteers.

  2. The Sunday Suppers at St. Andrews gives anyone who's thinking about volunteering a chance to do so once in a while or on a regular basis. They also accept cooked meals or sweets... :)