Recently, some long-time volunteers dropped by the Our Daily Bread (ODB) kitchen to help us with a little project. Some of them have volunteered at ODB since the program started 30 years ago and have “retired” from their regular volunteer shifts. While they were reconnecting with their old friends, they took time to tell us about their experiences volunteering at ODB over the years.
George Thompson retired in 1980, the year ODB first opened. He heard someone talking about the program on the radio, and since he was looking for something to do, decided to drop by. He quickly became the regular volunteer cook every Monday and Wednesday. It was Mr. Thompson who was called in to cook the meal for Pope John Paul II when he visited Baltimore in 1995. Mr. Thompson recalls that he was informed he would be cooking for the Pope just two days before the scheduled visit, but the Pope became ill and his visit was delayed a year. Mr. Thompson had to keep the secret about the Pope’s visit for 12 months for security reasons, but cooked when the Pope visited the following year. He remembers Pope John Paul II as “very nice and down to earth.” Mr. Thompson has since retired from his regular volunteer shift at ODB, but still stops in about once a week to keep an eye on things.
Frances Ashby was a server who always worked in the green section of the dining room during her regular Friday volunteer shift. Like Mr. Thompson, she, too, has retired from her regular shift, but remembers that, “We always had fun.” She especially enjoyed getting to know the ODB guests, who would return to sit in her section whenever they came in. Ms. Ashby misses working with the guests now that it’s hard for her to get around. She enjoys coming in for the occasional visit and encourages others to volunteer at ODB whenever they can to have fun, too.
Jo and Paul Miller started leading a volunteer group in 1981 from their church, Immaculate Conception in Towson. The group still serves a full meatloaf Sunday dinner monthly and most holiday meals at ODB, along with a group from Calvary Baptist Church. The Millers remember Sister Josanna, the first ODB Program Director, telling them in 1981 that the program “would probably be around for about 10 years” and then would no longer be needed. Unfortunately for the city’s poor, especially the working poor and increasingly for women and children, ODB is still very much needed. The Millers still muster their parish regular volunteers and enjoy “the spirit [of fellowship] that prevails among the volunteers.” Our guests enjoy their Sunday dinners and homemade desserts, served with dignity and respect.
Judith Giacomo, another long-time ODB volunteer, stopped to say, “Over the years, I’ve been especially impressed by how the guests look out for one another. Even in the worst weather, no matter how hot or how cold it is outside, they are careful to finish their meals quickly to make room for those still waiting to get in. They could spend an extra few minutes relaxing in the air conditioning or warmth indoors, but instead, they move along so others may eat while the line is open.” Another volunteer then told us she has seen the adults in line step aside to move families with children to the head of the line to be sure they were fed first.
ODB needs more volunteers, especially for weekdays. Please call our Volunteer line at 443.986.9031. We would love to speak with you about opportunities for you to make a difference at Our Daily Bread. To find volunteer opportunities at other Catholic Charities programs, visit https://cc-md-old.vitamindesign.com/volunteer/ and search our database of volunteer positions.