Above: Love, Lauren volunteers, front left, Susan Tasca and Ben Revkin make peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, with Cindy Smith in back.
Volunteers welcome at the weekly meal preparation at St. Luke’s
There’s a new volunteer opportunity in town, preparing meals for those who are living in shelters or on the street. It’s called Love, Lauren and was founded by 28-year-old Lauren Smith, an EGHS grad (Class of 2012) who started it two years ago in Providence and recently moved it to East Greenwich.
Lauren Smith was 12 years old when she first volunteered at Judy’s Kindness Kitchen, a soup kitchen in Providence, with her mother, Cindy Smith. It became a regular thing. When it came time to choose a senior project, Smith worked with St. Luke’s member Ron Clement to plan a meal for Christ Community Kitchen, a monthly dinner offered at the church.
That need to feed didn’t stop during college at URI and beyond. Smith, a CPA, kept volunteering at Judy’s when she was in Rhode Island and she imagined she would one day start something of her own, probably in retirement. Then the pandemic happened. Smith was living in Providence and continuing to volunteer on Sundays at Judy’s but the need seemed so great she was moved to act. She joined forces with Judy’s, working under the Congregation Beth Shalom 501-c3, and founded Love, Lauren, preparing lunches on Saturdays to distribute to Providence-area shelters.
“I believe giving back to your community first is important,” she said. Others did too and, as they sought out volunteer opportunities, they found Love, Lauren.
One such volunteer was EG resident Ben Revkin, who happened to be Lauren’s Latin teacher from her days at Cole Middle School. Revkin, who now teaches at EGHS, started volunteering at Love, Lauren, during the pandemic and was there Oct. 22 for Lauren’s first meal prep in East Greenwich – in the St. Luke’s Community Kitchen (the very place 10 years ago where she organized that senior project meal).
Several of the volunteers on Saturday had been with her in Providence, but there were new people too, including Kim Flemming and her son Oscar, of Lincoln. “I found it hard to find a volunteer opportunity I could do with my son and this works out perfectly,” she said.
Tyler Joseph of Warwick also talked about wanting to give back. “I was looking for an opportunity and found this a year ago and I’ve been coming ever since,” he said. “Lauren being so young showing this type of leadership shows what’s possible.”
Lauren decided to move her Saturday operation to East Greenwich after she moved back to EG herself recently. She got in touch with Steve McLaughlin, who runs the Wednesday lunch program at St. Luke’s, and it turned out the church had just renovated the kitchen and dining room and there was room for Love, Lauren.
For now, most of the more than 400 lunches prepared weekly are going to Providence shelters but some of the bag lunches in October were heading to a tent encampment at Oakland Beach in Warwick. Smith said in coming months she would be investigating other potential local needs.
“Here it’s a little bit of a different demographic,” she said. “As I learn more about the need here, I’ll be able to tailor [meals] and provide the appropriate sustenance.”
Meanwhile, there are different opportunities to help. You can sign up for one of the weekly food prep volunteer slots or offer to drive meals to a specific location HERE. Or you can donate money to help Smith cover costs – make sure you write “Love, Lauren” in the “make a note” section – HERE. Food donations like jars of peanut butter are welcome too – drop them off at St. Luke’s, 99 Peirce St., marked “Love, Lauren.”