[Hpn] Lynn, MA - Gathering at 'The Table'

Editor Editor <hccjr@bellsouth.net>
Mon, 08 Jul 2002 04:35:38 -0500

Gathering at 'The Table'
Largest soup kitchen on the North Shore
Volunteers make soup kitchen a 20-year success

By Angelica Medaglia - Boston Globe - July 7, 2002

They never miss a meal at My Brother's Table, the well-oiled soup kitchen that
has served thousands of meals in Lynn over the past 20 years.

Millicent Cerrone, a retired nurse, came to the organization six years ago to
help start and run a health clinic shortly after she was diagnosed with

Tim Guinee, his wife, Ethel, and family members started cooking at the soup
kitchen because they wanted to feed people a meal as good as their 12 children
and 40 grandchildren would have at their home.

Maria Newson, a full-time MBTA bus driver and mother of two, just gives back
something. She says My Brother's Table saved her life when she was pregnant with
her daughter 12 years ago.

"The Table," as it is commonly known, will celebrate its 20th anniversary later
this year. It is the largest soup kitchen on the North Shore, operating with
2,500 volunteers. Private donations of food and money help cover its annual
budget of almost $1 million.

''I look forward to the day when there is no more My Brother's Table, when there
is no more hunger,'' said Victor McCurdy, one of the organization's founders.
''But that is never going to happen.''

Since 1982, it has operated in the same way, using volunteers as its backbone.

The thought of starting a soup kitchen came from a group that included two
priests from Lynn and parishioners from as far away as Marblehead. They first
started a food pantry at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, but given the need they
wanted to open a soup kitchen. The first public meeting, Feb. 28, 1982, drew
dozens of people, McCurdy said.

The group opened My Brother's Table on Oct. 27, 1982. There were only a handful
of volunteers then, allowing the soup kitchen to serve meals three days a week.

Now the soup kitchen runs year-round. Volunteers include high school students
and inmates, church and temple groups, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. Supermarkets
donate food and other volunteers bring their own food to serve.

The soup kitchen also has a shuttle service to bring food to people who cannot
make it to its doors.

''A lot of the people who support us do it financially,'' McCurdy said.

The organization moved from its storefront space on Union Street to the former
post office building on Willow Street nine years ago.

At that time, the United Parcel Service gave a $100,000 grant to install a
full-size commercial kitchen.

It is here, in a dining room for 160 people, where 64-year-old Gordon, who
declined to give his last name, comes to eat or chat every day.

''I've come for six years. I used to see a line [of people] when I used to pass
Union Street,'' said the former Vietnam veteran. ''All I know is that it is a
wonderful place for people. It's too important. I don't do alcohol or nothing,
but you get to meet all walks of life here.''

Guests gathered there Tuesday were a testament to this.

A family of six sat at a round table eating chickpeas and beef stew.

An older woman put her cane aside and sat with her salad plate at a corner
table; a man who said he had been homeless and is still a heroin user ate
chocolate cake beside a friend. Some of the men and women living in the city-run
shelter in the basement of the building lined the counter as volunteers served.

''At the end of the month a lot of families come because their benefits run
out,'' said Dianne Kuziahills, the organization's social worker. ''So last
Sunday we had 250 guests, and today we have 139. The numbers always vary.''

A lot of volunteers don't want recognition. There is a woman who for years baked
cupcakes and placed them in cardboard crates that her husband delivered before
the dining room opened at 5:30 p.m. On Wednesday, there were some 300 cupcakes
with chocolate icing.

''She doesn't want us to thank her,'' said Ilia Stacy, the organization's
director. ''We don't even know her name.

Once I went to give a speech at the Rotary Club and talked about her and at the
end someone came and told me that she was an in-law.''

Not seeking attention is something Cerrone understands.

''I don't feel that I need a lot of talk about what I do,'' said Cerrone, who is
legally blind. ''I was looking for something to do and maybe get a piece of
myself back,'' she said alluding to her days as a hospital nurse. Cerrone
continues to help run the clinic.

For the three generations of Guinees it is a family affair, one that they have
participated in for seven years.

''We coordinate it all together,'' said Ethel Guinee of the food shopping,
prepping, cooking, and cleaning. When the Guinees are at the Table, it means a
day off for the cook. ''The way the family feels, if we can't help somebody
else, what good are we.''

That, in part, is why Newson returned. She first started going to the Table
during the days her depression ate away at her appetite. She was 37, expecting
her second child.

''My Brother's Table did save my life,'' said Newson, who has worked as a door
guard there for two years now.

''Money is not the reason. It's giving to people in the same situation that I
was in.

People have pride. A lot of people don't want to come in. And maybe it's easier
for mothers with children to come in if they see a woman at the door.''

Angelica Medaglia can be reached at medaglia@globe.com
source page http://makeashorterlink.com/?Y20232631

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