Generous Helpings of Fried Chicken - with a Side
Voices of the Village E-Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 5
Members of the group share their feelings on their monthly volunteer service at Eva's Village:
"My neighbors have been good to me. It's my turn to give back."
"It's a Christian thing, and the people who come in are very appreciative. When we leave here, we feel like we did something."
"There's no glory in it. It's humbling. You just feel good doing it." - Hank
The menu is as consistent as the group's commitment to giving back: once a month for more than 30 years, the Men's Group from the Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Franklin Lakes prepares a hearty meal of fried chicken, collard greens and rice for guests at Eva's Community Kitchen. "We haven't missed a month yet," Hank noted with pride. At 88, he is the senior member of the group. Additional volunteers from the church serve the food and clean up.
Companionship with a generous dose of compassion is the recipe that keeps the group going. “Our goal is to give a good meal. It is a terrible thing to be hungry,” said Jerry. More than a generation ago, Eugene Tolomeo got the church involved after he volunteered at Eva’s Village on his own. All the members of the Men’s Group knew Eva’s founder, Msgr. Puma , personally and remember when the kitchen and dining areas were so small they had to cook and serve in shifts. Their long commitment to Eva’s Village has given them a unique perspective, as they have watched the organization and its programs grow. Today, the once-tiny kitchen serves hot meals to nearly 400 guests every day of the year. A warm welcome, a hot meal and kind words for each person we serve remain the cornerstones for Eva’s Community Kitchen, and for each of the 20 integrated anti-poverty programs at Eva’s Village, extending Msgr. Puma’s vision to treat each individual with dignity and respect.
The Men's Group supports the mission of Eva’s Village, and its members are proud to contribute. Like the others, Hank is motivated by the urge to give back: "I grew up here. Paterson gave me a lot. Once I was poor. Once I was hungry." Brian observed that preparing meals for Eva's guests "is a small way we can show appreciation to the hungry.” “We want to help people," Don agreed.
The five members of the group are confident they will pass the tradition of cooking and serving meals at Eva's Village on to the next generation, just as they keep the memory of Jim Sweeney, one of the group's original members, alive by passing down his secret recipe for seasoning collard greens. People cycle in and out and new members work alongside the original members. "It's part of the glue that holds our community together," they agreed.
The 1,670-family parish supports the group's commitment, supplying the food and a rotating roster of volunteers who serve and clean up each month. MBS's mission echoes the mission of Eva's Village: "Serving and supporting those within and beyond our parish remains a major focus as we recognize that each of us is called to be a witness to God's love in our world." On the Saturday before Easter, 16 volunteers joined the cooks, a mixture of veterans, new families, teens and individuals. Brian expressed the feelings shared by the entire group: "The experience is rewarding to everybody, and there's no doubt you're doing good things."
We encourage you to join the more than 3,500 volunteers who contribute time and talent to Eva's Village. To find out how you can participate, individually or as a group, visit our Volunteer page.
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Read our next newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 6