In 2006 Bruce Whear a Salem Rotarian became increasingly involved in LifeBridge and its mission. LifeBridge is a facility with transitional beds and permanent housing as well as a full servicing soup kitchen in the heart of downtown Salem, MA. Bruce signed up to make one dinner a month in the soup kitchen. Over the past 10 years, Bruce along with his loving wife Heidi and varying groups of family, friends and volunteers have spent the first Wednesday of every month in the kitchen, cooking and serving about 80 - 100 dinners.
Bruce typically calls over or visits the kitchen to see if there are any existing donated vegetables, desserts or perishable items that the kitchen manager, Karen, would like us to cook before they become unusable. Many Civic minded local stores and farms donate excess produce and other food items throughout the year. Bruce then adjusts the menu and shops & donates whatever is needed to complete the meal that evening.There are typically a multitude of vegetables and salad fixings in the fridge in need of immediate use. A medley of sauteed veggies or an Asian flavored stir-fry are always well received by the hungry clients. Bruce loves to bring in fresh milk with some chocolate syrup as a special treat & receives great satisfaction that the clients know when he cooks there will be plenty of chocolate milk for all. (A tribute to his Dad.)
The greatest joy for both Bruce and Heidi is to invite and engage new volunteers who then become regular volunteers in the many opportunities Lifebridge avails folks. For many years now The Rotary Club of Salem MA cooks about four times a year. Bertram House of Swampscott brought a monthly meal for a few years after their employees volunteered as a team building exercise and said they wanted to do it regularly. The ElderAct Club of Marblehead Harbor and Swampscott cook a monthly dinner.
Dinner guests at Lifebridge line up for food and the passing out of meals if quite swift. From when the window opens to when dinner and dessert is served is very quick. During that time, the expressions of gratitude from the guests is strong and heartfelt. On one occasion, when an ElderActor was handing out food and receiving well wishes and thanks in return, the ElderActor turned to Heidi and said, “I get so much from this experience that I would pay to be able to volunteer here.”
Rotarians are hardwired for that kind of joy. We understand the joy in serving others.It’s fun, it’s easy, takes very little time and you leave the meal with more enthusiasm than when you arrived.