Since I started serving St. Paul's in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many staples of our common life that I haven't yet had the chance to experience: e.g. famine weekend, the Apple Harvest Festival, and volunteering at Bread for Life. A few weeks ago, I was invited to Bread for Life so we can restart that connection.
Executive Director Donna Ayer and Missy Cipriano, Director of Operations, showed me around the dining room, kitchen, storage facilities, and garden. I also got to see the new bee hives! It's truly a remarkable operation. I had the pleasure of touring these facilities with (and getting to know) Michael Pavano, the new Director of Youth Ministry at the Catholic Youth Ministry of Southington.
The genesis of this re-connection came when we were launching the St. Paul's Little Free Pantry. (Read more about that process here.) Missy generously agreed to speak about food insecurity in Southington to those gathered at the blessing of our Little Free Pantry. So, I was thrilled when she invited me for a tour of this place that's so important to people in our church community—and in our town.
Bread for Life feeds people with 130 meals per day, which is impressive. But what stood out to me even more was their commitment to serving their clients with utmost dignity at every moment. Their kitchen is as highly certified as a restaurant. In non-COVID times, they serve food on real plates and offer real dining chairs to sit in. No paper plates or folding chairs in sight! To keep everyone safe during COVID, they wrote a grant to create a similarly dignified outdoor space for the people they serve.
You probably know that Bread for Life bought the property for its building at 31 Vermont Avenue from St. Paul’s a handful of years ago. And then two or so years ago, they bought the land with our garden so they can grow fresh produce to serve to their clients. I loved getting to see the ways they’re using this land to serve our whole community.
Missy and Donna speak with passion about their love of caring for people by feeding them. During the tour, I kept thinking of all the times that Jesus fed hungry people and commanded us to do the same. I'm really looking forward to the time when Bread for Life invites volunteers back into their space!