We cannot help but marvel at the dedication, and longevity, of a core of volunteers who every Monday, Thursday and Saturday offer a “free, healthy meal served in an atmosphere of acceptance, inclusion and genuine care” at St. Ann Church in Waynesburg.
The veterans of the Good Neighbor Kitchen, mostly retired and undeniably getting up in age, have been serving the less fortunate of the community since 1994, and it is estimated more than 10,000 lunches have been served from the “soup kitchen” since its inception.
Of course, St. Ann is not alone in its commitment to altruistic volunteerism. We have reported on countless events in which Greene County churches and other organizations offer free community meals. Those meals don’t magically appear on tables in social halls of churches, granges, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts. Members and volunteers do the work and we have no doubt that those “served in an atmosphere of acceptance” leave nourished, and not necessarily because of the food what was consumed. There is no question that, as one of the St. Ann volunteers noted, more volunteers are always needed.
We see an endless source of prospective volunteers in Greene County, from high school students to students at Waynesburg University, which touts its service to others as its philosophy.
Albert Schweitzer said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
Nowadays, some sort of volunteer labor is a given in many places. Through schools, churches, the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts and countless other organizations, children and teenagers are expected to do something, whether it be fundraising for charities, working at soup kitchens or assisting at animal shelters.
In the most positive light, such service teaches children and teenagers to look beyond themselves and understand the role they can play in their community and country.
Yet, there may be some cynicism among people that some portion of community service is prompted by simple interest in résumé-building. But does it really matter why it’s done? Isn’t it enough to volunteer, no matter the motive?
Community service and volunteerism for whatever reason is a good thing. But how it’s done and whether it also involves service learning – that is, lessons that discuss homelessness or hunger in a larger context – make a difference.
The people of Greene County always seem to look out for one another. Last month’s Tri-County Leathernecks’ toy drive proved that. It was one of the best years for the organization.
Granted, community generosity peaks during the holidays, but the need for many lasts all year. There is a deep pool of able-bodied people in Greene County who we think can give an hour at a church soup kitchen or dinner, or at the animal shelter, or at the hospital or at nursing homes.
As the late humorist Erma Bombeck said, “Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the Earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience and just plain love for one another.”