They came in by groups of five. They were mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, young children, teenagers and babies. Some were homeless, some were not. Some worked every day and some did not. Some were seniors who just wanted a bit of company with their dinner and some were young families who just needed a helping hand to feed their children. They came from all walks of life.

I first volunteered at the Mary Rose Mission in the cold winter months of 2016. I was part of a group of eleven women from the Women’s Impact Network (WIN) and I will never forget the experience. In the short span of two hours we fed nearly 150 people. I know the number because the Mission records the number of first plates served as well as the number of “seconds” served but I remember the number because my first thoughts were right here in Florence, Kentucky, less than two miles from the Celanese site location there are people in need of a hot meal who walked, drove and rode the bus to the Mary Rose Mission to have that meal.

As volunteers, some of us dished up hot meals, some greeted folks as they entered the building, some washed dishes, some made certain that hot coffee and cold water and milk were at the ready. Wendy Sterling and I were the dining room “runners” (although it was more like a quick step to be honest) assisting to bring “seconds” to those who asked and wiping down tables and chairs. Of all the volunteer stations, in my opinion, Emily Blackburn had the most challenging position as she was the person who took the prayer intentions from the guests as they left the building. After cleaning, we ended the volunteer shift by listening to prayer intentions which were the prayer requests that guests left with Emily and asked the volunteers and staff to remember. Requests such as “please pray for me to get a job,” or “please pray that my tests from the doctor are all good,” or “please pray that we find a place to live,” or “please pray for all of the volunteers and staff.”

As I left the Mission that evening, I was filled with gratitude as I thought that I could have been one of the guests. Homeless, unemployed or under-employed and in need of a hot meal, a warm smile and someone to take my prayer requests. With that thought in mind, I make it a point to volunteer at the Mary Rose Mission whenever the opportunity arises and I am all the better for it!

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