posted by Rob Lagno '12
We all entered our final day at DC Central Kitchens with the distressing thought of leaving combated with our usual spunk and excitement. Not only did the reality of feeding 4,500 people wake us up early to cook and chop, but our relationships with the staff at DC Central Kitchens provided extra incentive to endure the bright lights of the early morning hostel and the extended walk to the kitchen. My experience began with the walk. Feeling the crisp morning breeze on my back unite with the rays of sunlight on my face not only made the walk quicker, but also made me realize how much I love the mornings and miss them. The trip brought that forgotten aspect of my life back. On the final day at the kitchen, I continued my steady job of cutting tomatoes. Having worked at the vegetable station all four mornings, I now understood the process and had greatly improved my chopping skills. I felt like I was part of the team putting together the salads. Unlike the first day, where I imagine I was a burden to the routine, now I felt that I was positively contributing to one of the greatest projects I have ever been a part of. Another great part of my experience at DC Central Kitchens was interacting with the staff. Over the weekend, I worked with a man named Mason who easily remembered me for my name, Rob, which was his brother's name. My time with him was well spent but much different than my time with Ms. Dorothy Bell, otherwise known as Ms. Dot. Her old school approach scared me at first, but getting to know her totally reshaped my experience. Ms. Dot's constant joking and ear-to-ear smile was unique and I couldn't help but laugh along with her as she re-explained the method of cutting cucumbers to me. Overall, my time in DC was shaped by my experiences at DC Central Kitchen: from the delicious danishes on break, to the salad assembly line. At the end of the morning, I could not believe how much one class of kids and a group of staff members helped an entire city. It made me realize that we all can make a difference, whether as Robert Egger reshaping the non-profit system, or a humble class from Gettysburg trying to lend a helping hand. I could not help but to think of what everyone else in the world did for those four mornings and how we feed a population greater than our student body in three hours. I was privileged to have this experience and blessed to go through it with all my classmates and I would not change a thing.
by Harriet Manice '12
With blankets, pillows, pajamas and toiletries in hand, Shelby and I walked up to the fourth flour of the Hostel. We knocked a few times but no one answered. After several more knockings and a few "hello, is anyone in there?" shouts, a lady with white dreadlocks opened the door. Toni immediately reminded me of Whoopi Goldberg. She was spunky and had a wonderful smile. Joyce, the other staff member, was singing along to the radio, which I was very tempted to do...but I spared them. Toni gave us a quick tour of the place. There were three dorm rooms, a bathroom, a shower-room, a dining area with a giant TV and a kitchen. As we were walking back to the office/staff bedroom, one woman who was staying in the shelter caught my attention. "Remind me to steal those slippers from you," she said. I was wearing my ridiculous-looking slippers that are basically mini moon boots. She kept pointing them out to her friends saying, "I really gotta get me some of them shoes." Her laughter made me feel right at ease. It also made me realize how strong these women are. They have so little yet are so high spirited and grateful.
Shelby and I woke up at 5:55 a.m, and went through the four steps: wake up call at 6 a.m, 15 minute warning to get out of the showers at 7, everyone out of the showers at 7:15, and everyone out of the shelter by 7:30. The radio was playing in the bathroom and you could hear several voices singing along to Rihanna and Maroon 5. One of the ladies, who had gone outside to get some air, needed to be "buzzed up". Shelby and I finally had this down to a system. I pressed the button on the phone that opened the door to the hostel, while Shelby jumped inside the elevator and quickly pushed the 1st floor button before the door closed on her. It is a very old and complicating elevator and supposedly breaks if the door touches you while it's closing. After everyone had been given their medicine, Shelby and I shut off all the lights, locked up and went back downstairs. Although I was not able to talk to the women as much as I would have liked, it was a wonderful experience. These women are no different than us. They laugh, sing, dance, make jokes, and spend hours putting make up on.