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Sunday, December 11, 2011

St. Stephens Shelter

What an incredible humbling experience I have had today. It was because of a great opportunity to be of service for others.  My church put out an email looking for parishioners to serve dinner to 45 homeless men at a shelter. I know how hard it is during the holidays to actually get an opportunity to do this direct service because there is usually a waiting list. I jumped on the chance and thought, this would be stellar to do with my children.

Well, God had different plans. I learned  my
children's dad had plans for my kids. I went to plan B.   I asked my
sister in law Lori to think about the opportunity and let me know if she was willing to serve the meal with me. I went out and bought the food, had another parishioner make the salad, bars and donate the rolls. I picked up her part of the meal at our church and went home to eagerly cook my lasagna for the men. The only part of the meal I prepared  before my sister in law came over was mixing the ricotta cheese, eggs, mozzarella cheese and Parmesan in my mixer.

Let me back up and add that yesterday, I drove downtown Minneapolis
so I would not feel anxious about where I was going. I found
the shelter right away and realized that one block down
the street is where I do family violence trainings for homeless
women. God has such a sense of humor. I felt so comfortable
down there since I have been going to that same street for
eleven years. Trust me, I do not like to drive downtown,
but because I have this route so in delved into my mind, it worked well. 

My lovely giving sister in law arrived at my home around
three o'clock in the afternoon. We dug right in and began
adding in pan after pan, the ingredients in layers for our
no boil lasagna. I hope you enjoy my pictures. Lori and
I had so much fun knowing that the cause was a worthy one.

Can I just say it was hard to smell four pans full of lasagna on our drive to downtown Minneapolis. We pulled up in front of St. Stephen's shelter and church and admired the history and architecture of the buildings. Brick woven with ivy, patterned  itself  all around the structure. Stained glass windows gave way to the colossal wooden church doors.

Camera in hand, I just had to take pictures of this
beautiful scene. My sister in law and I walked in through the blue door and met
the shelter chef Larry. He was a handsome African American man about
thirtyish. We put down our food as he walked us through
the nights procedure in serving hungry men. We were told the shelter guests
would be in line one half hour before we even
served the meal.

The kitchen at this shelter was so small and cramped, it was
hard to have all three of us in there at the same time. We
put the lasagna in the oven to reheat and took a walk down the block. We had a good hour before we were to serve.

We both took in the beautiful Minneapolis skyline and buildings. Finding the side door locked at the church had us thinking we would not be able to tour it. Watching a Spanish family walking in the front door, we knew it was a go. We walked in behind them and noticed Catholic Mass was just beginning. We sat through the most charming Spanish Catholic Service. Both my sister in law and I are Catholic, so this was such a gift. Wow, you have to see the picture I took of the cross that threw shadows on wall. It was a surreal sight to say the least.  Then the icing on the cake
was Mother Mary or Maria at the left front of the altar.
I have such a devotion to Mother Mary that my father
passed down to me. What a special night this was.I am so glad I could share it with my sister in law who is one of my besties.

Lori and I walked back to the shelter and organized the buffet. I served the lasagna, Lori served the salad, and Larry served the bars and milk.  I can't tell you how much Lori and I enjoyed our time there with the men. I was surprised that almost all of the men that went through our line thanked us. They were so gracious and thankful.

I noticed some of the men were dressed to the nines and some were tattered and disheveled. We can't pre- judge what homeless looks like. I believe that we are all in this life together and need to be there when were hurting. We are all at risk of becoming hungry or homeless.

I did a presentation three months ago to a group of
one hundred ninth graders.  They were collecting perishable food for the homeless at the food shelf called Prism. I was asked to speak to these Catholic students because I work with homeless women and children. I also am a familiar face to this student body since I recruit volunteers from this school every semester. The school is called Benilde St. Margarets.

One of the demonstrations I did was go around and
ask the students what homelessness or hungry people
look like. Most of the students stated that homeless or hungry people are dirty and haggard. That is when I put a video up on the auditorium wall that showed a woman in her forties on the local television station going down an isle at a food shelf.  The woman in the video was me. I shared with the students
that hunger and homelessness hits every socioeconomic strata, religion, race, ethnicity and it knows no bounds. No shame in needing help, just ask I taught them. Check out the link

 The teachers that booked me for this presentation had no
idea that I ever went through this experience. As I
stood there and watched this student body give me a standing ovation,
students started down the bleachers to talk to me. Male students thanked me and hugged me. Teachers came down to talk to me and told me of their story.  More than two said, "been there done that."

Just remember, it could be your neighbor, your son or daughters school mate. Please at this time of year and all year long, do something to help.

" Do not lay up for yourselves, treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not  break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart
will be also."Matthew 6:21


  1. How wonderful that volunteering turned out to be such an enriching experience for you.

  2. Sarah
    Thanks. I can't wait to do it again.