Joan Martter
Joan Martter with soup kitchen guest, Tom

Emmaus staff member Breanna Mekuly interviewed Joan Martter about her time volunteering at Emmaus. This is what she had to say.

Breanna: How long have you been serving at Emmaus?
Joan: I first started serving at the soup kitchen in 2000. Initially, I came to the soup kitchen to deliver the proceeds of our Angel Tree for Sister Rosanne’s children’s Christmas celebrations.* I was working with Fairview High School and the Angel Tree was a part of our Key Club. Soon after, I started bringing desserts once a month to the soup kitchen.

Breanna: But recently you’ve also been serving on Fridays, correct?
Joan: Yes. I started serving at the kitchen with Kelley Glass’s group a while ago and still serve with them once a month. For the past year or two, I’ve been at the soup kitchen on Fridays, too.

Breanna: What do you do during your time at Emmaus?
Joan: I usually work in the family room, but I also work the floor or serve on the line when needed. I also help Rita Scrimenti, social worker at Emmaus, with special projects.

Breanna: What is something that sticks with you in your time volunteering at Emmaus?
Joan: What sticks with me is the strength and stamina of our guests.

Breanna: What does that mean?
Joan: So many of our guests deal with the inequality of life.

Breanna: What are some of these inequalities or needs that you see our guests dealing with?
Joan: They have many needs other than just hunger, the need of warm clothing, emergency food for families, medical attention for physical and mental health issues… Perhaps one other need is a need for community. So many guests seem to lead solitary lives and the kitchen offers a sense of community for many of them.

Breanna: How do you think Emmaus offers community for those in need?
Joan: I see a basic human need that all people want: to be shown respect and dignity by others. And at the soup kitchen, they are given those.

Breanna: How do we give respect and dignity at the soup kitchen?
Joan: Mostly, we pay attention to individuals. We welcome each guest at the door. We greet people by name, which shows we value them as a person. We know something about our guests and ask personal questions. It’s not uncommon to hear a volunteer ask something as personal as: “What’s the status of your test results?”

Breanna: It sounds like you enjoy serving at the soup kitchen. Are there any other reasons you would say that you’re committed to Emmaus?
Joan: I serve because it makes me face the reality that our guests live. It is so easy to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to these needs if we are unaware of them. It makes me ever more grateful for my life. One bad break and we could all be on the receiving end of the kitchen’s food instead of serving it. Plus, I love the staff and volunteers I work with. I always look forward to seeing them and working with them.

*Sister Rosanne Lindal-Hynes is the women’s advocate at Emmaus Ministries.

Pictured: Joan Martter with soup kitchen guest, Tom