This past Friday evening, I was given the opportunity to serve meals to those in need, alongside my husband, as part of the Ritz-Carlton Give Back Getaways program with the Friday Night Supper Program at the Arlington Street Church in Boston. It is a wonderful opportunity the Ritz gives to its guests while spotlighting the tremendous work of the supper program. As part of our overnight stay, we were brought over to the church in the late afternoon and picked up later that same evening when our community service has ended.
While I have worked in the area in the past, I had never heard of this program before. I met with Director Caroline Carwood before the evening’s work began so she could tell me a little bit about the program. It began back in 1984 as a collaboration between the Arlington Street Church, a Unitarian Universalist church located on the corner of Arlington Street and Boylston Street, and Dignity Boston, a congregation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics. They noticed at the time that food pantries were available for those in need every night of the week except Friday nights. And so, for the past 26 years, the group has been serving meals to those in need from the basement of the Arlington Street Church. The group became an official 501(c)(3) charity organization in 1994 and today benefits from many long-term relationships with other hunger-relief organization receiving 80% of their food supplies from The Greater Boston Food Bank.
I was able to witness firsthand the tremendous dedication and efficiency by which Caroline and her weekly group of volunteers run the program. We were in charge of coffee and juice for the evening and being that it was such a chilly evening, the coffee was, not surprisingly, very popular. One of the wonderful aspects of the program is that it is a no questions asked organization. There is no signing in at the door and no documentation required to dine. Anyone who cares to partake in the meal is welcome to. Most evenings about 150 meals are served with males making up 95% of those served. Approximately half are homeless individuals while the other half are on low or fixed incomes or currently transitioning out of a homeless situation.
The evening began with a rush towards the sneaker table when guests were allowed in at 5PM. The local Beacon Hill Athletic Club donates old sneakers from their members for guests of the program. They are in particular need of men’s sneakers size 10 and larger, as many suffer from swollen feet and ankles due to the conditions in which they live.
Dinner for the evening began with coffee, juice and pumpkin soup. The meal that followed, which is served to all seated guests by the volunteers complete with silverware and dishes, consisted of hot turkey, gravy, mixed vegetables potato, milk and water with peaches for dessert.
Following dinner, the clothing closet opened up at 630PM, though the line began forming well before that. Though well stocked, the supplies went quickly as the night was cold and the winter is sure to be a long one.
All guests exited by 7PM and the clean up was a whirlwind of activity that finished, as promised, promptly as 730PM. It was incredible to see the efficiency that went into the weekly evening of caring for those in need.
So, how can you help this wonderful organization and the guests it serves? The need is immediate and ongoing, particularly during this economic crisis where many new faces have been appearing at the weekly meals. You can help out by:
- Making a tax-deductible cash donation
- Donating gently used clothes, shoes, jeans, socks, coats, winter gear and/or toiletries
- Volunteering your time to cook and serve meals
- Help spread the word about the wonderful services provided by the group (Find them on Facebook & Twitter)
I am truly thankful to the Ritz-Carlton for introducing me to this program and hope to be able to return to volunteer again in the very near future. I encourage everyone to assist the program with their mission to provide warm and nutritious meals to anyone in need in a safe and dignified manner. And I commend Caroline Carwood for her dedication, her commitment, and the genuine care in which she operates the Friday Night Supper Program.
Location: 351 Boylston St., Back Bay, Boston 617.536.7050, extension 22, fridaynightsupper.org