January 31, 2011

St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room

By Michelle Hostrup, MarCom Committee, 2010-11

When I heard my alarm clock go off this morning I immediately threw my comforter over my head in anguish. It had been a long week and I was looking forward to lounging in bed on a Saturday morning. But then I remembered why I was waking up so early...to volunteer at the St. Anthony’s Padua Dining Room. I immediately perked up and jumped out of bed, eager to start my day on a high note.

I hadn't volunteered in a while, so when I read about the opportunity in the Junior League of Palo Alto-Mid Peninsula eNews, I quickly signed-up. When I arrived, there were about 5 other Leaguers sorting loaves of bread outside of the dining hall. There were hundreds of loaves of bread, all donated from places like Safeway and Draegers in Menlo Park. I learned from Chris, a veteran volunteer at the dining room, that a lot of surplus groceries and produce were distributed at the center. I was amazed by how much food had been donated. The produce was the same quality as what I purchase at the Palo Alto Farmers Market!

After sorting and stacking the loaves of bread, I was tasked with slicing oranges. Similar to the bread, there were hundreds of plump and juicy oranges. There were other volunteers helping at the kitchen, many of whom were high school student fulfilling their community service obligation. I counted close to two dozen volunteers. I learned that St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room, less than a few miles from my home, has been serving the low-income elderly with a weekend meal supplement since the early 1970's. And today, the dining rooms serves as many as 600 hot nourishing meals a day, six days a week year round.

The 3 hours of volunteer work I signed-up for flew by. I finished cutting bell peppers and left the center, but on the way out passed dozens of people entering the dining room. I assumed they were arriving to get breakfast, which made me happy thinking about my mornings work and how I had contributed. It felt so good to sacrifice a few extra hours of sleep, to help out people in need.

Junior League volunteers take a break before preparing to serve lunch at St. Anthony’s Padua Dining Room.

Volunteers sort through fresh produce that was used to fill grocery bags for low-income families.

Members: There are several Done in a Day opportunities remaining for the rest of the League year, log into the Member Area of our website and check out Volunteer Shifts to find an activity that works with your schedule.

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