“You have no idea how hard it is to be poor in this community,” she said after she felt like she could let her guard down.
She had three young children that she was raising alone and she looked like a child herself due to her diminutive stature. A boy about 5 years old stood next to her, dark eyes peering out from under an oversized black knit hat.
One of our chefs offered to help her bring the bags of food and desserts out to her car and it was him she made her confession to. She offered her thanks for everything and he told her we were glad to help the community but before he could say the word ‘community’ she inserted the word ‘poor’.
Her quickness and the phrase “help the poor” left him speechless for a moment and he scrambled to reply. He told her about his own life in a family of four children and his mom’s solo parent struggles to make ends meet.
That was probably what made her feel safe in the darkened parking lot; standing next to someone tall and strong who could relate to the little boy in an oversized hat.
When we offered to provide Christmas dinners for families or individuals who are struggling for any reason, we had no idea how many we would need to make. With limited outreach and only two weeks notice, we received requests for just over 50.
Our two chefs, Tom and Mike, deftly prepared roast turkey, homemade stuffing and gravy, herb roasted potatoes and buttered carrots. Two of our brunch waitstaff, Hannah (ABRHS Senior) and Audrey (ABRHS grad and UMASS Amherst student) spent hours organizing the donated desserts and packaged them up with holiday flair so every person and family would enjoy a delightful assortment.
The desserts magically appeared due to the generosity of Karen Collins of Babycakes, who responded within a day to offer a dozen shopping bags – with a value of nearly $500 - filled with delicious pies, cookies, whoopee pies, candies and decorated gingerbread girls and boys. These desserts truly brought a sparkle to everyone’s eyes that saw them, especially the little boy who peered into his bag which was nearly as big and heavy as he was.
We learned about individuals who are disabled and met the neighbors who came in to deliver their meals. One woman was in treatment for cancer and was so happy to have something chocolate to tempt her to eat when she wasn’t feeling sick from chemo.
Most of the stories were about those who just don’t have enough but try so very hard to make enough out of too little. When everything was gone and the quick meetings were over, we realized just how deep the need was and how little we had done. Next year, we’ll probably make 100 meals. Or more.
Our thanks to Laura Ducharme, social worker from the town of Acton, Mike O’Keefe from the Knights of Columbus, Rachel Sagan from the Acton Boxboro United Way and Mike Tobias and Pastor Tim Knapp from the Mt. Calvary community supper who made our intention a reality. We hope to provide on-going support to the community in 2013.