Reflections from the Soup Kitchen Christmas Party
Receiving gifts

Sister Jacqueline Sanchez-Small, Communications Assistant at Emmaus Ministries, shares some thoughts after experiencing the Christmas Party at the soup kitchen last week.

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It’s a week before Christmas, and I’m volunteering at Emmaus Soup Kitchen. Well, I’m supposed to be. But the crew of volunteers that’s here tonight are old pros, and they have everything–the stuffed chicken breast, the salad and roll, the special dessert–well under control. So I’m sitting by the side door with Sister Rosanne, who is waiting for the women who have made appointments with her. One by one, they come to the door and she goes out to meet them, talking for just a few minutes about whatever their most pressing problem is, and then, inevitably, Sister Rosanne hands each one an envelope–with her name written on it in her big, looping cursive–and pulls her in for a hug. 

When there’s a lull between the women, she tells me that a few days before, she had an experience she’s still thinking about. “I met with a lady and she had no coat. Now, Scripture says, ‘Whoever has two coats should share with those who have none.’ Well, I don’t have two coats; I have three. So I gave her mine. She told me–” Rosanne pauses for a minute and collects herself. “She said she’d never had a coat before. Jacqueline, how is that possible? To never have had a coat. Just think of it. I’m so glad I was able to give her one. And I made sure her children had coats.”

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Sister Val hears that Roberta, a frequent guest, is in line for her dinner. “Oh, you’ve gotta come meet Roberta. You’ll love her,” she tells me. So I go out after her, walking behind her through the line of hungry guests. Some of them greet Val, some of them stare at the ground or off into space. But then there’s Roberta, who throws her arms wide and yells, “SISTER!”

Val introduces me to Roberta, telling her I’m a new sister and I’m going to be helping out around the kitchen from time to time. Roberta is beaming. “Welcome to Emmaus! You let me know if you have any questions.” Then she asks us about other Benedictines she remembers, who have helped at Emmaus in different roles over the years, wanting to know how they’re feeling, where they’re in ministry now. As she gets closer to the window where she’ll get her food, she wishes us a merry Christmas and tells me, “You’re part of the family now!”

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I take a turn serving meals through the window, just as an elderly man comes to the front of the line. 

I greet him and he smiles and says, “You wanna hear some good news for a change?”

I say of course I do. 

“I just got a place to live. An apartment with a door and everything. I’ve been on this waitlist for more than three months, and it’s finally going to be mine. I can move in before Christmas! I’m so happy, I just had to tell somebody,” he says. “I know we haven’t met before but I figured you must care since you’re here.”

Another volunteer, walking out in the line, reminds him not to leave as soon as he gets his meal, because there are blankets being given away as Christmas gifts.

“Amazing,” the man says, “I’m going to have a nice new blanket to sit under in my apartment.”


Photo: Guests receive blankets as gifts

Volunteer, Kathi Lieb, serves the holiday meal.
Volunteer, Kathi Lieb, serves the holiday meal.
Emmaus Social Worker, Rita Scrimenti (left to right) with volunteers Karen Fortebraccio, Pam Baumgart, and Mary Nelson
Emmaus Social Worker, Rita Scrimenti (left to right) with volunteers Karen Fortebraccio, Pam Baumgart, and Mary Nelson
Handing out gifts including blankets, calendars, candy canes, and oranges
Handing out gifts including blankets, calendars, candy canes, and oranges
Catherine Simon, Soup Kitchen Coordinator, hands out meals
Catherine Simon, Soup Kitchen Coordinator, hands out meals