MACCchefs Hosts Pop-Up Restaurant

Anne

HARTFORD COURANT – Graduating chefs from the MACC Chefs Culinary Arts Job Training program hosted a pop-up restaurant last month.

Almost 100 hundred diners, including residents and town officials, all came out to have a three-course meal at the MACC Soup Kitchen.

The meal included, mussels, soup and salad; several entrees including beef, salmon, and a vegetarian option; and desserts such as chocolate mousse, pumpkin doughnut bread pudding, and cranberry goat cheese ice cream.

“I am so proud of them,” said Ben Dubow, executive chef and Director of Food Services for MACC. “The entire program turned out better than I ever could have hoped for.”

Working in the pop-up restaurant culminated the 12-week experience for the food industry hopefuls. In total, the future chefs completed 120 hours of culinary work. The program is designed for those who are underprivileged and normally would not have the opportunity to attend culinary school.

Students gained real life experience during the program from being a part of MACC Catering. The group catered small-scale meetings, all the way up to weddings.

“They’ve basically been versed in all aspects of the culinary world, whether it’s baking, sauteing – all of it,” said Community Engagement Manager Meaghan Sprague.

The program, which also focuses on hospitality, not only taught the future chefs how to throw down in the kitchen, but also prepared them go the business world by teaching interviewing skills and resume writing, Sprague added. She also said that program was strict and that Dubow “is no nonsense.”

“I wanted to instill that professionalism in each of the students because that’s something they carry with them on all areas of their life,” said Dubow. “Things like language, how to dress, just everything.”

The chefs have certainly come a long way; their first night of class was learning how to cut vegetables, Sprague added.

One of the students has already begun his position at the vegetarian restaurant 21 Oak in Manchester and another has been working at October Kitchen.

Servers from Burton’s Grill of South Windsor volunteered their services for the event, as well.

Maureen Macdonald said she was more than happy to lend her time for a good cause.

“I love Chef Ben’s premise of not giving a handout, but giving a hand up,” Macdonald said. “I’m a 20-year veteran of the service industry so I just think it’s really great that you’re going to give people a way to make their own means.”

LINK: Hartford Courant Article

Warming Hands, Warming Hearts

Last night the Manchester Chamber of Commerce along with the Tolland Chamber of Commerce put on an event: “Warming Hands, Warming Hearts” where they collected 2,500 children’s hats, mittens, gloves, scarves, coats, and socks which were donated to MACC, CHR, KidSafe, and Community Child Guidance Clinic.

Thank you to everyone who donated!!

Community Outreach

Outreach- Reaching out to those in Need

Shannon Baldassario, Director of Community Outreach states, “Everyday day is a new day to help someone in need and we do this job because we are truly dedicated to helping people and we care about their well being”

Shannon provides weekly shower and laundry services for those clients who remain outside. She brings people in from the outdoors and gives referrals for housing, mental health/ substance abuse, and basic needs such as food, clothing, and hygeine. She works closely with the advocacy department at MACC, as well as different town agencies to assess the need within the community.

Face Need: Be Something

The world can feel a bit heavy sometimes with all of its pressures and demands. We might feel like we can’t do anything to possibly make a difference. How could one man, or woman, or child, possibly make a dent in the harsh atmosphere of reality?

At the risk of sounding cliché, consider the simple fact that we can’t be everything for everyone, but we can can be something for someone. It’s almost too simple and it doesn’t sound like much of a solution, but you can probably recall a time when someone spoke a word, smiled at you, or cracked a joke that lifted your spirits. Perhaps someone picked up your bill, paid for your coffee, or gave you a meal. They didn’t solve the world’s problems, but they made a difference in your world, if even for a moment.

So the challenge today is to consider being something for someone. Don’t let the noise and hustle of the world make you feel like there’s nothing that can be done. Bring your joy with you, offer to help a stranger, make a phone call, be something for someone today.

At MACC, we believe that it’s better to do something (even if it’s only a little) than nothing. “A little in abundance is a lot!”

Join us on November 7th for an evening of art, music and community. Learn about MACC and how you can BE a part of something great. For more information, visit the event page.

Pain

Pain is something that we all relate to because we have all experienced it.   Physical pain is usually evidenced  by a visible wound, limp or grimace on the face.  Emotional pain is little harder to detect at times as we are good at suppressing it in public.  If emotional pain was as tangible as an open physical wound, I dare say we would be wading knee deep in blood.  I got this mental picture as I walked among the 100+ guests that visited the MACC Charities Community Kitchen today at the noon hour for a hot meal.  I was compelled to stop and talk to a few of them.

I met a mom that comes every day to share a meal with her 4 under school aged children.  The other two  of her six children were in school. Another couple was elderly, on a fixed income with many health issues that cost out of pocket money.  They started coming to our kitchen a few years ago when told by a friend that they could save the $20 a week that they spent on eating at the senior center if they ate at the community kitchen.

Most of people eat their meal in silence, heads bowed and have few smiles to share.  I felt their pain, not in words but in observation, the way they postured their bodies and the their lack of eye contact.  Even when they did  looked up at me, the light was gone from their eyes and I wonder if that was hope that was missing. It made me  sad.

On my way into the kitchen the second time today,  a beautiful child of about 4 years with dancing brown eyes looked up at me and when I smiled at her, she caught me off guard as she reached to hug me, I quickly looked at who I thought was her grandmother and asked if it was okay to accept her hug and the woman said “yes, she must need one.”  I opened my arms and the little girl threw her arms around my neck and squeezed tight.  The feeling was incredible.  When I told my staff what happened and the grandma’s  comment  that she must have needed a hug, one of my co-workers said “or she knew you did”.  Wow is all I have to say.   Maybe God sent that child to  ease my pain as I walked among the emotionally wounded.  My pain was eased and I felt comforted.  I hope that is what the community meal does for our guests.

Someone recently asked me to share an experience, good or bad, that moved me enough to want to talk about it with others.  This is one of those experiences that was laced with both bad and good at the same time.   It was enough for me to want to share it.  I hope it will inspire us all to want to reach out and comfort someone who needs it.

– Beth Stafford, MACC Charities CEO/Executive Director

To give to MACC’s mission, click here.

Forever Changed

“I wish I could serve them today, tomorrow, every day.”

 

Recently, a church group from the South came to visit Lifesong, a new church plant in Manchester. As a part of their visit to New England, they chose to serve at MACC for five nights in a row. We asked for one of their team members to write some thoughts down and here was the response:

Before going to Connecticut on the mission trip, a friend told me I would be forever changed.  How could that be possible?  How would I know?

Day 1…I entered MACC not knowing what to expect.  I was a little apprehensive as I listened to the supervisor giving directions for serving.  I was not sure I could do this. I wasn’t sure I knew what to say to them or how to react with the guests.

Day 2…I was back at MACC with more confidence to get the job done. They made it easy to greet, serve and converse. I recognized faces and I greeted them with Southern Hospitality.  One guest commented on my accent…accent? I have an accent?  When we saw them out in the town, we waved and they recognized us.

Day 3…again the mission team and I were ready to give, love, share…we were all set (a new term we learned in CT) to show love to the guests. Several mission team members talked with the guests while others served.

Day 4.. only one more day to serve. Wow, what a week!  The time went by way too fast. I would miss the guests… their smiles, their politeness, their chatter. I will never forget their faces.

Day 5…The mission team would have to say goodbye to some awesome people that we served dinner to for 5 days. We would miss conversing with them no matter how it happened…a smile, a thank you, a nod and a yes, please.

I wish I could serve them today, tomorrow, every day.  They lifted me when I was supposed to be lifting them. Why are there tears when I think of them?  They were real people who needed love and attention. They were happy to see us…they would say “here they come..they are here again!”  At the end of the week they were our friends and we loved them.  And yes, I am forever changed.

Jane Blackwell

7/31/13

Priceless

Shortly after the Newtown Shooting, MACC Staff gathered in the Community Kitchen for a quarterly meeting. The feeling in the room was somber but it lightened a bit when several $10 gift cards to a local grocery store were handed out  to us. Each card had a piece of paper which held the name and age of a victim from the recent shooting.We waited for instructions. The cards weren’t for staff to keep, they were to be given out as a gift to whoever we wanted to bless. They were random acts of kindness waiting to happen. They were a simple and humble response, bits of healing, to push back against the violence that erupted in our midst.

Yesterday, on June 26th, staff gathered again and told stories about the gift cards we were given to hand out. We recounted our tales, beginning with the names on our cards, and cried and laughed for the next half hour. One staff member recalled meeting with a client who brought their children into the office. While they were talking, one child toyed with something in his small hands and when asked about it, the mother replied that “it was a piece of candy he’s had since yesterday.” The boy didn’t want to eat it because the knew that as soon as he indulged, there would be no more treat. He didn’t know when he would have candy again. Our staff member drew one of the cards we were given and told the mother to take the children for treats. Immediately, the kids brightened up and asked if they could go to the store now (they really wanted some sweets!) It was a joyous moment and one that will not be forgotten by the family or our staff member.

It’s not everyday that we have a spare $10 card to hand out, but small acts like this can change the trajectory of someone’s day. Mother Teresa coined the phrase “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” We know that our volunteers embody this every day at MACC. They treat our clients with the utmost dignity and respect. There’s the occasional “slip” when some extra cookies end up in a child’s bag and there’s nothing quite like the smile that follows. Serving with joy is one of the best ways to push back against the darkness that looms, trying to drown out the light.We encourage you to give it a try. Whether you volunteer at MACC or just want to change someone’s world in another small way, do it with great love and let your light shine bright.

Volunteer Spotlight: “Miss” Donna

She calls herself “Miss Donna”, but her real name should be “Miss Personality”. Have you ever met someone who can completely change your day with just one smile? That’s Donna. You can hear her voice and laugh echo through the pantry as she jokes with other volunteers and clients. She radiates energy and joy and if you spend more than a minute around her, you might just give her a big hug!

She started volunteering at MACC Charities about a year and a half ago when her church first visited our pantry. She was a Sunday School teacher at the time and had been “praying for an opportunity to give back to the community.” Upon entering MACC, she knew this was where she wanted to spend her time.

When asked what her favorite part of volunteering at MACC is, she lights up. “I love working with the other volunteers- and kids, I love kids!” At this point in the interview, one of the other volunteers pokes his head around the corner and shouts, “Hey Donna! Can I have your autograph?” She just laughs and waves him off.

She continues talking while sorting through a small pile of canned food and body wash. “The other thing I enjoy is getting to ask children what they want when they come into the pantry. That is very special for me, to be able to ask if they want a certain kind of cereal and to be able to give it to them.” She really does love kids!

Without prompting, she begins to tell us the difficulties our pantry faces. “It’s tough to see people who come in at the end of the month because there’s very little food at that point.” Two things often happen as each month comes to a close: our pantry lines grow and our food donations slow. “People eat every day, not just on holidays. Our pantry here is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and we need food each day.”

She volunteers because she simply believes people shouldn’t have to go hungry. “It blesses me to be a blessing to people.” You know she means it. Donna volunteers to help, not to be helped. She comes to bless and give her time and energy. That is enough for her.

When asked for any final comments, she shamelessly gives a plug for the pantry. “We need more food, like jelly, condiments, canned meats, and also personal items like body wash, toothpaste and toothbrushes!” Miss Personality chuckles a little more during the last photograph and returns to her work in the pantry. Mondays and Wednesday are special days, particularly because Donna is here, smiling and serving.

“Labels”

Humans like to label. We label to organize. To categorize. We even like to RE-label, to rename the things that make us uncomfortable. We even relabele the term “relabel,” and instead we use euphemisms.

We relabel our actions. It’s not downloading music illegally, it’s “file-sharing.” We aren’t counting the number of civilians dead, just the “collateral damage.”

Volunteering at MACC this week, I encountered a plethora of people and activities to label. Sometimes we called the homeless people, “guests,” and sometimes we called the guests, “homeless people.” I don’t think one is more politically correct than the other, but the context in which I was discussing the subject determined the label. By the end of the week, I discovered it wasn’t the label or the context that mattered at all.

I had an opportunity this week to spend the night in the shelter. I met a lot of people over the course of the week; volunteers, guests, homeless, whatever you want to label them. But getting to spend the night in their home was when the labels dissolved and they became individuals. Putting names with faces and motives behind the actions forced me to see past any label I could stick on or use to categorize. It forced me to see the heart. When you see the heart behind the face, or the heart that goes into a service provided, there’s no going back to the initial label. The “homeless man” becomes David. The “hand-out” becomes Davids toothbrush.

I think we are all aware of how we stereotype people around us, but it’s the labeling we do of our own lives that slips by unnoticed. When it’s our own actions, we relabel them without even thinking about. So what really caught me off guard this week was not the labels I was giving to the people I met, but it was when the people I met challenged me to think about the label I was putting on my own life.

The university I attend does a really good job of drilling their mission statement into students’ heads. “To educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.” It’s plastered above doorways and printed on every syllabus. I believe that they are doing such a thorough job of applying this label to my education, that I have come assume that no matter what I end up doing when I graduate, I will undoubtedly be a Christian servant and leader in my workplace.

The night I spent in the shelter, I had a conversation with one of the guests that shattered this belief. This conversation clearly revealed the subconscious assumptions I have been making about the career path my education should take me.

Seconds after introducing myself to this guest, explaining to her where I was from and what I was majoring in, she asked me how I planned on being a Christian in my job. She didn’t beat around the bush or use any labels. She wanted to know how I was going to tell others about Christ with my life. She didn’t want some answer about the way I live or how I was going to slowly be noticed for being slightly different. She wanted to know what action I was going to take to evangelize to others around me, and how majoring in journalism could do that for me.

I fumbled around with shallow words about the need for Christians in the media and all I could offer her was an answer of words regurgitated from things I occasionally hear my professors say. I didn’t have specific actions I could tell her I hoped to do, only labels.

I quickly realized that until I made the conscious decision to act in Christian service so that I can become a Christian leader, the mission statement was just going to be another label on my resume, not something I had actually accomplished.

I am thankful for MACC and the guests that allowed me to reevaluate the labels I have been applying externally and internally. Over the course of the week, more labels were dissolved and more hearts were heard. I believe this is exactly what MACC is doing for the Manchester community. The are removing the label of homelessness and the burden that so many assume it has on a community. They cannot eliminate it, but they can hear out the hearts that suffer from it and help them escape the labels.

– Madeline Orr | ACU Student

Winter Wonderland

Help keep the MACC pantry stocked AND have a blast with some free skate admission and rentals at the Bolton Ice Palace! This is another family-friendly event aimed at getting parents and kids involved in the work of MACC Charities year-round – all are welcome! The flier says all you need but if you have more questions or want to volunteer at the event, email maccserves@gmail.com.

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