Since my freshman year I have volunteered at a local church in downtown Fredericksburg. Since I began how I have experienced it has changed. Originally I enjoyed it because I could take a break from being on campus and interacting with peers. As time as gone on, why I enjoy it has grown. The people that organize the soup kitchen are wonderful. I didn’t know very much about them originally, however each year I learn more and more. By now I have learned that not all of the regular volunteers attend the church where it is held. Not all of them are religious, and none of them sign up to come. They each choose to come weekly. At this point the community members who come for the meal are familiar with all of the regular volunteers. They notice if people are missing and ask where “*insert first name*” is. The relationship between the volunteers and those coming for food is amazing. The soup kitchen pulls in volunteers from local high schools, businesses, UMW, and community residents. A volunteer told me that a university in Richmond did a study on how this operation is managed.
When I attend the soup kitchen I don’t simply feel as though I’m “helping others” I feel as though I am being an active participant in the Fredericksburg community. Since people of all ages, classes, and walks of life attend it feels as though relationships are being built through interaction rather than pity. While I have conflicting thoughts on soup kitchens in general, I can absolutely say that this one is making a difference and building community within Fredericksburg. My conflicting feelings stem from my frustration that soup kitchens are a “band-aid” so to speak to help with the present issues. But these issues arise from larger community, state, and national issues. Many of the people attending the soup kitchen are an older generation. They are lazy people who haven’t worked hard in their life. They are past their prime for jobs and haven’t entered into careers that accommodate their aging bodies. While I don’t have answers for how to directly change the situation many of the people are in, I feel as though relationships with others in the community are a wonderful and meaningful place to start. And my hope is that through those relationships people can find a better way of living. Perhaps not through material things, but at least through a meal with a friend.
I had a friend ask me whether there are services available that offer support and resources for those in need of them. Services and resources such as job training, resume or interview assistance, shelters, financial guidance, and health related support. As of now I am not aware of what those resources are and if there are any directly related to the soup kitchen. I was intrigued with the question and will certainly do some digging into it. Those kinds of services and support seem very important in working towards making a significant change in the life of those attending the soup kitchen. My hope is those who may find a way out of their current situation continue to carry on the relationships they built and create more with others coming. I feel as though this kind of program bridges the power relationship between members within the same community. While there are still areas to work on, at least this is a group focusing on interactions rather than simply donating money and not being involved with the cause.