Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pouring coffee all day...

This morning the boy and I went help out at University Soup Kitchens. They're an all-volunteer organization that does a soup kitchen once a week in the Lower East Side. The NYC UVA Alumni Association goes and volunteers once a month, which is how I heard about them.

This was my 2nd time volunteering. I signed up for the 2nd shift which starts at 11:45am. The first shift starts at 8:45 and who can get up that early on a Saturday?

It's a very cool set-up for a soup kitchen. Instead of having a buffet/cafeteria style service, it's actually restaurant style, where the volunteers serve the patrons at their seats. The main course is always meatloaf and they have salad and veggies and bread and bananas and brownies for dessert. They also started branching out into other services, like there's a free clothes table and everyone gets a bag of food when they leave.

The first time I was there, I managed the clothes table. Once we got a sense of what was available, we'd try to find something for each person to take with them. We became fashion consultants. We'd ask what they'd like and then offer recommendations and tell them they looked good or tell them they should go for something different.

This time the boy got bussing duties and I was responsible for serving coffee. The coffee was made in this gigantic brewer with 1 pound of coffee at a time and a filter with a 1 foot diameter. The first time I tried to brew coffee, I nearly spilled grounds everywhere because I didn't realize you could pull the whole grill out with the filter and grounds all in it. After brewing, we'd have to transfer it, pot by pot, into a dispenser, and then wheel it out into the eating area. Then we'd fill a pot and walk around to fill people's cups.

It was fun to walk around and talk to people and offer them drinks. My hands got really cramped up since I had to clutch the coffee pot pretty tightly. There was no insulation on the pot, so you couldn't use your other hand to support it. But I can pour coffee with my left hand, so I was able to switch back and forth. Although my hands will be pretty cramped tomorrow.

We serve for 1 hour and a half and the time just flies by. You are on your feet the entire time moving around and trying to help everyone as fast as you can. But everyone was very nice and polite and grateful that they were getting some good food.

It was a good morning, but we were pretty tired afterwards and ended up taking a nap for 2 hours.

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