The Perspective of a Loaves & Fishes Site Coordinator: Written by Rebecca Buckman
I started at Loaves & Fishes when (Associate Executive Director) Kiley Benson reached out to me about filling in as a site coordinator. I had previous experience volunteering in food ministries and in managing kitchens, but the Loaves & Fishes kitchens were different from the other kitchen jobs I had done.
Working at Loaves & Fishes is fun and something I really enjoy doing. I don’t leave feeling exhausted, I leave feeling lifted up and energized. There is something about seeing the grateful faces of the children getting a hot meal and watching the stressed parent’s faces look relieved. It was that relief in their eyes as they were receiving a hot meal that provided me with a small feeling of comfort. I know it gave our guests one less thing to worry about that night.
I was mostly posted at Holy Rosary in downtown Minneapolis; it is right in the center of the housing district of Little Earth. Being a Native American myself, I felt at home with the gentle spirits coming from across the street for meals. The guests were polite and grateful for the meals we provided. I was raised by a single mother and as a child; we would go to a church for dinner on Thursday nights. Most times it was because my mother needed a break from cooking dinner, others it was because we needed food. I am now on the other side; I get to serve those that are just like I was.
As the site coordinator my duty was to oversee the site’s kitchen. Make sure the equipment was working right every day and cook 120 to 160 meals each night. I had started after COVID-19 restrictions swept through the city. Through some tight regulations, we couldn’t open the dining area, but Loaves & Fishes stepped it up! They met all the requirements and we were able to make meals to-go. We would bring the hot meals to the cars or in my case at Holy Rosary, have them ready when the guest came to the doors. We made hot, nutritious meals in to-go containers, and assembling them brought all the volunteers and I together as a team.
The volunteers are very friendly and some groups are determined to carry their vision for their meals. They are hardworking and faithful to the site. I had the wonderful pleasure to meet many different types of volunteers. One thing they all have in common is the willing hearts to serve; they come ready to do whatever needs to be done. They seem to leave their daily stresses at the door and bring a peace to the site. I was able to see the faces and hearts behind those who served me as a child. I no longer felt like the meals served were obligatory but of willingness. I do believe the volunteers love serving, knowing they did something to help another person out. They took serving serious; they were on time and stayed a little late if I needed.
The guests are the whole reason why an organization like Loaves & Fishes is needed. I would chat with most of them, learning how their day was. I had one man who came every night, he was homeless, but had a carefree perspective. I could see the heaviness of life in his eyes, but he was kind and polite. He always shared his day and the location where he would go eat his dinner. He liked going to the lake nearby and watched the sunset while he ate. He said it made him feel like he was at a restaurant when he ate our food.
Being part of the Loaves & Fishes teams has given me the opportunity to meet different kinds of people. It opened me up to invest in others by just asking them how their day was and to experience learning all walks of life. As I see the children walk through the line, I see myself in their eyes. This gives me hope, that maybe someday they will be able to serve like I have been able to.