With the Christmas fast approaching, many people try to find ways to give to those in need. And while caring for the less fortunate around the holidays is a great help to the community, donating one’s time for the rest of the year is easily neglected. Opportunities to help are everywhere, but with the busyness of life, it can be easy to miss them. Serving dinner at the Salvation Army is an opportunity offered once a month to all Helias students, yet some months not even one student shows up to help.
The Salvation Army provides a temporary home for those in need, when they have the available space, and serves three meals a day to anyone who walks in needing a warm meal. They also offer these people the opportunity to make a little money by making part-time jobs available. Julie Gramlich, a youth minister at St. Joseph Cathedral, has been cooking at the Salvation Army once a month for the past ten years. She invites Helias students to help out every time she cooks, but all too often not enough come. She has even resorted to calling her husband or a friend to assist her in the past, when no one comes. She knows that for some people, this may be the only meal they get that day.
“I think the people there don’t normally get a good home-cooked meal,” said Gramlich. “I think most of the food they get is reheated or left over from a restaurant, so I think it’s nice for them to have a home-cooked meal at least once every so often.”
This past Wednesday the Helias Zonta Club (Z-Club) took Mrs. Gramlich up on her offer and helped cook and serve at the Salvation Army. Five of the members came at 3:15 p.m. to begin preparing the food. The normal turn out for dinner is between 30-40 guests. The meal to be prepared that night was broccoli chicken alfredo, garlic bread, salad and apple cobbler. The ladies finished the cooking early, and dinner was announced over the speaker at the usual time of 5 p.m.
As the guests waiting in the dining hall lined up to be served, more and more guests began pouring in from the cold outdoors. The cold had brought more people than ever. The dining hall filled rapidly and the servers began to realize that their large meal would not be large enough. While the Z-Club girls were scraping the bottom of the trays to feed the infinite line, Mrs. Gramlich rushed around the kitchen trying to find more food to prepare. This was the first time in her ten years of serving that the servers had run out of food. The line came to a stand-still as everything but the bread ran out. The girls had to tell the hungry guests that more food would be ready as soon as possible. Some patiently took their seats while others politely stood their ground, assuring their place in line. Finding grapes, cookies, peaches, tater tots and fajita mix, Mrs. Gramlich began cooking once more.
“It felt horrible when the food started to run out,” said Helias senior and volunteer Maddie Neuner, “Like these people came here for a warm dinner and you’re trying to help them, but at the same time there is only so much you can do.”
The newly-found food was prepared in record time, and the girls were ready to serve once more. Those who had waited patiently for their meal filed back into line. Though more cautious of the portion sizes this time around, the girls were able to serve the remaining crowd and even offer seconds to some of the guests. Though some people had had to walk quite a distance in the blistering cold to get to the kitchen, only to find that they would have to wait longer than usual for their meal, it was hard to find an ungrateful face. Many people complimented the girls on the delicious meal and thanked them for coming to cook and serve. One resident who was particularly grateful was a man named Joshua. Joshua has been traveling around the country for two years “following the Lord,” and trying to find his place. He was not only grateful for the meal and interested to learn about Helias, but incredibly grateful to the Salvation Army organization. He called the people he had met through his travels his “family”, and optimistically commented that he loved every place he went because, “you get what you bring with you.”