Post cancer, I had had so many doctors (16-17 at one count), and spent so much time in medical facilities for appointments,scans, tests and chemo, that when I was ready to surface, the last place I wanted to be was a medical facility (hard to go back to work under those circumstances when you are a nurse). So I didn’t go right back to work. But I am used to being busy, and felt I needed to do something good with my life, so I played piano a lot for institutionalized seniors a lot (was great to be around people who got to be OLD!!!). Even though the elderly had deteriorating bodies and used canes and walkers, they were alive in their 80s!!! I dreamed of being able to get old, even if it meant using canes and walkers and having wrinkles.
I also delivered Meals on Wheels to the elderly and handicapped (nothing new, I’d done that for many years prior). But I felt I still needed to do something more. A soup kitchen opened up in a church near my home, so one day I just showed up and asked if they needed help. They said “sure!”. They really had every thing covered and didn’t need me to do much, but I stayed anyway, it was a good thing. Since there wasn’t a lot that needed doing, and they had a piano in the hall, I played piano for those eating, it gave me something to do.
Over time I got a little more involved in the soup kitchen. Then one day, the person who managed the soup kitchen said she would be out of town for 6 weeks, and the kitchen would close unless some one offered to take charge. Don’t know what got into me, but I said I’d do it. I created soup recipes from compiled recipes on-line (I don’t like to cook!)…at any rate, the soup kitchen did very well the 6 weeks I ran it. Then the woman who ran it came back and said she was moving to another state…did anyone want to take it over? Since I’d done it for 6 weeks, I thought,why not?
I bought the groceries with the same frugalness I used at home. We had a basket there….”donations accepted but not expected”. Since it was open to the public, not just the poor and needy,we had many come. Our numbers increased from 30 to over 100. I still played dining music for the guests, requests included. We all sang happy birthday to anyone who came on their birthday. It was a great thing! We had the homeless, the poor, the lonely and even business men in suits come as they enjoyed the food (they left big donations in the basket). My kids volunteered there in the summers. The soup was so popular we even published a free soup recipe booklet for the guests.
We ran into a problem, as I shopped cheap and many donated….we began to turn a profit!!! It was a kind of crisis! I called a meeting of the soup kitchen staff about our profit problem. We decided to donate the profits monthly to the needy. We donated to a family whose child needed surgery, to a woman newly diagnosed with cancer, to the Haitians after the earthquake, we put together 30 Thanksgiving baskets for the needy.
A local columnist went incognito to all of the soup kitchens in our county and then published an article with “soup kitchen reviews”…ours came out on top!!! He was intrigued by me and later interviewed me for an article…it was great and helped get information out about appendix cancer.
The woman who started the soup kitchen moved back and wanted to take it over again, so I gave it back to her. I volunteered there still for a few years, then got busy with work (back to the hospitals!).
My church just bought a new building with a full kitchen and dining area…I miss my soup kitchen so offered to start one there! Don’t know if they’ll take me up on it, but I hope so! I know how to make mass quantities of 15 different soups!