Written by Kate Bosco
It’s a rainy night in Framingham, the day before Christmas Eve. Inside the Salvation Army community center on Concord Street, things are ramping up to dinner.
There’s not much of a crowd inside tonight. About thirty people are in the gym next to the Salvation Army’s kitchen. Another dozen or more are huddled outside the entrance, waiting for take-out boxes. Volunteers from the UUAC are crowded into the center’s tiny kitchen, preparing to serve the neediest members of the community.
Kathy Greer has been here before: “It just feels good to help people have a good meal.”
Volunteers cook meatloaves at home, while the veggies are prepared in the Salvation Army kitchen. Marjorie Gove makes the mac and cheese, 24 boxes of it, in her home. It’s been the menu since the UUAC began hosting dinners nearly twenty-five years ago. Dinner guests say that this is their favorite meal. Joan Hunter-Brody has been coordinating these dinners, which take place every three months, for the past eight years.
Once six o’clock rolls around, it’s time to serve. The volunteers turn into an efficient assembly line. Plates and take-out boxes get a scoop of beans, a helping of mac and cheese and a thick slice of meatloaf before being placed on a tray. Other volunteers take these trays of steaming meals and hand them out to patient diners. Once everyone has been served, ice cream sandwiches are given out as dessert, and the call comes for seconds.
There are a lot of younger volunteers here tonight. Libby Frassinelli, who’s turning eleven tonight, is helping ladle out the beans. Campbell and Jackson Bryans are also part of the assembly line. Dylan Palmer helps serve.
“I haven’t done it in a long time,” says Dylan, “So I decided to come with my mom tonight.”
Things go quickly, compared to the usual evening. Volunteers have served upwards of eighty people at a time, along with takeout boxes. When all the people in the community center have eaten, volunteers clean the kitchen and pack away the leftovers. With a large number of volunteers tonight, a few also help reset the gym.
In all, serving dinner and cleaning up afterwards takes about two hours. Volunteers are in and out in less time than it takes to see a movie. The feedback is instant— diners thank the servers and cooks as they leave the hall. There are other benefits, too. Jackson and Campbell Bryans have earned a few hours of volunteer credit for their work both serving the meal and helping their mother, Darrah, prepare meatloaves. Jackson has been here every three or four months for the past two years. He says he comes because, “initially, I had to, but I like doing it.”
If you can’t make it to Framingham, but you can cook, you can still help! About twenty meatloaves are needed for each dinner. We host four times a year.
You can visit the Framingham Salvation Army online to learn more about their mission. Be sure to look at their volunteering page for information on getting involved.