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Catholic Voice
CURRENT ISSUE:  November 7, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 19   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Catholics avoid Web for church news
Turkey Fund collecting donations
Serving the hungry continues
throughout the year

Thanksgiving appears to bring out the volunteer in all of us. Everybody, it seems, is warmed by images of dishing up turkey and all the trimmings to those less fortunate than themselves on that fourth Thursday of November.

Volunteer 1-2-3

Rosa Baeza, volunteer coordinator, schedules volunteers at (510) 877-9252 or rbaeza@svdp-alameda.org.

Those who have never volunteered with SVdP are asked to attend an orientation, at 4:30 p.m. Thursdays at 675 23rd St., Oakland.

As welcome as all those Thanksgiving volunteers are, they’d be even more welcome the next day. Or the day after that.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County knows the guests at Thanksgiving dinner will be hungry again Friday. The Oakland dining room serves 800 to 1,000 meals every day of the year between 10:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. It takes a crew of 20 to 25 volunteers to serve those meals.

Thanksgiving may not necessarily be the best-attended meal of the year at the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room. Many of the regular guests, said Katharine Miller, director of development and communications of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County, “might have somewhere else to go.”

Many, she said, will be once-a-year dinner guests of family. The others will come to the dining room, which will take on a more festive air, with centerpieces on the tables and music playing.

“On Thanksgiving, only those who are truly alone have no place else to go,” she said.

Finding volunteers to help with the holiday meal is usually not a problem. “We almost always fill up quickly,” she said. “For many people, that weekend is about community service.”

St. Vincent de Paul asks those who have never volunteered at its dining room to attend an orientation, held at 4:30 p.m. every Thursday at 675 23rd St., Oakland.

“We want to make sure people understand what kind of patrons we serve,” she said, “and about the endemic poverty we have here.”

Among the positions available are serving line; dishwashers; meal delivery to families and elderly people for whom going through the serving line is difficult; handing out trays; and greeting people at the door.

No experience is necessary. “What’s most important is that the volunteers can bring a smile and see the humanity in the patron they’re serving,” Miller said.

No one under 14 can volunteer. It’s a busy commercial kitchen, and volunteers will don gloves and hairnets.

A way for groups to participate, Miller said, will be in bagging treats that will be given to each guest at the end of the meal. The Kitchen of Champions will be baking the cookies, which will be part of the meals all during Thanksgiving week.

Monetary gifts are most welcome. St. Vincent de Paul “has seen its food bill go up astronomically,” she said, as they strive to serve “a more nutritionally dense meal,” including more fresh fruits and vegetables.

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