This week's blog is written by guest blogger and Volunteer Square high school intern Regina Misercola.
Inside Spooner House's equipped kitchen, hands were gloved, pizza boxes opened and ovens cranked up. Last Friday, 10 Volunteer Square high school interns, along with Executive Director Julianne Alberty and Founder Ned Brokaw were busy heating up pizzas and preparing desserts--all donated by the Huntington Congregational Church--to serve to the house's welcoming residents. Outside the kitchen, the dining room was decorated for Easter and residents trickled in. As six-o-clock rolled around, the men that were seated insisted on waiting for the women and children to arrive before eating. And, when they did, the room was alive with chatter. Grace was said, and dinner was served.
After the pizzas arrived, we transferred them from boxes to trays and into the oven to stay warm. We stirred up a salad, uncovered desserts and chatted with the residents. We all stood at the window of the kitchen as residents, women, and children first, pointed to the type of pizza they wanted. Some filled up their plates with salad and a slice of each kind of pizza--cheese, pepperoni, veggie supreme and sausage. And, for dessert, homemade brownies and an Easter-themed lemon cake.
Spooner House's residents welcomed us with jokes, smiles, and gratitude. They sincerely appreciated the food we served them and made us feel like part of their family. After serving, we were all able to sit and have pizza with the residents and watched the children run around the dining room, laughing. VS intern, Kathryn Blanco, admired “I was impressed to see how well the residents got along and how everybody chipped in to keep their living space clean and pleasant. That said, I understand that it's difficult to deal with the uncertainty and lack of privacy that comes with not having a home of your own, especially when raising a family." We all felt it was a truly wonderful experience to be a part of, especially as a team effort. We felt the residents' gratitude toward us, and that in itself was incredibly rewarding. I, myself, left with a really good feeling, and definitely, want to go back again, and I'm not the only one.
After the meal, a movie night was held for the children. Some interns helped wash the dishes, other popped popcorn, and the kids changed into pajamas. The kids were excited, and so were we, we knew we had made a small impact, and the night wasn't even over yet. The children's smiles stayed with intern Christina Ludwig even after she left. She played "Headbands" and hide-and-go-seek with them, but was sad to think that they only had this small area to play in. Cristina recounts, "the children hugged us and asked if we would come back and I decided I would make it a personal goal to visit again."
Spooner House is run by Area Congregations Together, and it is the only homeless shelter in Lower Naugatuck Valley. It is also one of few shelters in CT that welcomes families with children as well as individual adults. The house is dedicated to providing food, shelter and support services to people in need, and they look to volunteers to help make this possible. Spooner House also relies on donations to feed their residents, something that was very eye-opening for our team, especially intern Julia Haskins. She explained, "It makes me realize how lucky we are just to have food easily put on the table for us every night!". Now, this may sound cliche to some, but not knowing where the next meal is going to come from was a reality for the house's residents, before they entered the shelter.
As high school interns, our job is to promote volunteerism, especially to our young peers. Individually, our team has been forming volunteer projects to complete in our communities, but we wanted to do something together. So with our Volunteer Square t-shirts on and an eagerness to help, we put our hands to work and served dinner as a team, alternating who served, who washed and dried dishes, etc. We even had some help from a seasoned volunteer, who has been cooking meals for the residents at least one to two times a week since November.
Volunteers are always needed to cook meals at the Spooner House. If you are interested in volunteering visit the VS Shelton Page. Bring a team, like we did, or just yourself - everyone is welcome!