Holy Trinity’s “Bonus Meals”
For the past year, the Youth Group from Holy Trinity Parish in Georgetown has come to Sacred Heart on the last Saturday of every month to prepare and serve dinner to the Dinner Program’s regular clients. Since the Dinner Program typically does not operate during the weekends, our dinner guests have come to look forward to what they regard as their “bonus meal.” The meal is indeed a nice break of routine from what is typically served during the week, consisting of enjoyable treats such as—hot dogs, chips, fruit and lemonade.
This dedicated group of volunteers is led by Tom Banchoff, who is a Holy Trinity Parishioner and a Professor at Georgetown University. Tom was looking for a hands-on volunteer opportunity for teens to perform social justice work. Tom learned of the Sacred Heart Dinner Program from another parishioner and formed a partnership with the Dinner Program Board. Tom, his wife Anja and their daughters are regular volunteers at the bonus meals along with several teens.
Tom and Anja have developed a model of service that is simple, repeatable and sustainable over time. They set aside time on the last Saturday of each month to shop for the food and supplies. They keep the menu simple so that it can be prepared onsite at Sacred Heart. They arrive between 3:00 and 3:30, serve at 4pm and are finished by around 5pm. They supply paper bags so that dinner guests can take food to-go and to enable the Holy Trinity volunteers to pass out extra food in the neighborhood or at the nearby Columbia Heights metro station where many of the homeless reside.
When asked what he has learned since starting this service at Sacred Heart, Tom remarks, “I’ve been surprised that many who come for food are DC natives. They have lots of interesting history to share. I hadn’t anticipated I would learn so much from them.”
For Tom, “there is joy, peace and connection in seeing the teens interact with those who come to eat. It is an opportunity to serve in a small way and to learn about the guests, who are always very appreciative.” Tom feels that serving at Sacred Heart provides an opportunity to feed the hungry, as Jesus instructed, and to feed the spirit of those who serve. “It is a connection I would not otherwise have,” says Tom.
Leigh Bianchi, one of the student volunteers, says “we all have a responsibility to serve others, particularly those society often forgets.” Leigh has learned “that it’s important to respect every person’s individual needs. For example, some of the people we serve may want to have a conversation while others may prefer to eat alone, and we should respect what each person needs instead of treating each person the same.” Leigh enjoys working with many of the same people each time and says it “feels like we are part of a community.”
Going forward, Tom Banchoff hopes Holy Trinity is able to serve on more Saturdays and that their partnership with the Dinner Program deepens. He would like our donors to know how grateful his group is that Sacred Heart has given them this opportunity to serve.