By MARC GAGNE
WAKEFIELD — The 9th anniversary of Most Blessed Sacrament (“MBS”) parish’s Community Dinners project was celebrated last Wednesday, as volunteers prepared, assembled and served food for dozens of guests and also witnessed the blessing of the “Little Food Pantry” on the premises.
Approximately 15 volunteers show up at MBS’s church hall at 3:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month to help with the Community Dinners project. Some get busy cooking in the kitchen, while others assemble salads, set tables, and place items in to-go bags for those who want to take their meals with them.
Last Wednesday, the volunteers and some of the guests who arrived early had the chance to hear Pastor Stephen Madden’s dedication of the Little Food Pantry that sits on the grass behind the church hall. The pantry contains canned goods, cereal and other such items and has a sign saying, “Give What You Can” and “Take What You Need.” Fr. Madden reminded the spectators that “Food and the lack of it is a serious problem, not just in Melrose and Wakefield but everywhere. There are families that don’t have food they can put on the table.” Fr. Madden mentioned that a person experiencing food insecurity could be the student sitting next to your child in school.
Following the Little Food Pantry dedication, the volunteers returned to the church hall to put the finishing touches on the dinner. The cooks in the kitchen ended up providing a delicious orange chicken and rice meal which was poured into containers and placed in bags for the guests along with bread and butter, a small salad, an apple, a bottle of water and sweet treats donated by the company Crumbl. Volunteers also wrote short notes for each guest that were placed in the bags, thanking them for coming and wishing them a good meal and a good night.
VOLUNTEERS IN THE kitchen and at the front of the house are at your service during MBS’ Community Dinners. (Julie Kingsley Photo)
Approximately 50 guests gathered in the foyer of the church and patiently waited for the feast to be complete. At 5:00 p.m., the doors to the church hall were opened, and individuals gratefully accepted their bags of food. Most took their bags to go which was a practice that developed during COVID times, but several individuals sat down and enjoyed their meal in the hall. Many of those taking the food bags mentioned that they were bringing extra to a neighbor or a family member in need.
Director of the project, Pina Masciarelli, spoke of the need she saw in the community 9 years ago and the fact that she worked with the church’s faith formation group to gather adults and youth to prepare and serve the dinners together. Ms. Masciarelli explained that food insecurity can happen to the young, to adults, and to the elderly. She mentioned the rising cost of living and food prices and the lack of family support that needy individuals can face. Families aren’t as big anymore, and they are spread out geographically and can’t support elderly parents as a result, Ms. Masciarelli stated.
Ms. Masciarelli appreciates the fact that the program provides a place for people who might be socially isolated to sit and eat a meal together and receive emotional support and company. She also noted that MBS’s program is different in that young people are encouraged to help as well. Ms. Masciarelli’s son was involved years ago when the program started, and last Wednesday five young people volunteered.”The kids are key,” Ms. Masciarelli stated, “and people enjoy seeing them.” In addition to helping assemble the food, the young people are instrumental in lifting and reaching heavy items and in carrying the food bags to the guests’ cars.
Cynthia Testa, a regular volunteer for the program, said she became involved after hearing about the program at mass one Sunday. Ms. Testa noted that volunteering for the Community Dinners project “gives back more to me than I give to anyone else. And that’s a fact.”
The dinners often have monthly themes, and next month’s dinner in October will celebrate Halloween with candy. That is sure to be a treat for the guests and the volunteers.