Above: Longtime CCK volunteers, from left, Steve McLoughlin, Paul Brookes, Margaret Clifton and Rob Walsh, at the Dec. 18 CCK dinner at St. Luke’s. Submitted photo
By Maura Legare
December’s Christ Community Kitchen (affectionately referred to as “CCK”) dinner at St. Luke’s may have seemed like another one of their monthly dinners, complete with friendly conversation, delicious food, and some happy tunes on the piano. The addition of red and green tablecloths and a few Santa hats were clues that Christmas is near, indeed, but there was something extra special going on at this particular dinner. It was the final dinner to be organized by long-time St. Luke’s volunteer Paul Brookes. After nine years of leading a group of volunteers in their effort to help those in need. Paul is turning over the reins to Rob Walsh, Margaret Clifton and Paul Ruggieri, all long-time volunteers themselves. Fear not, thought, Paul won’t be going far and will still be involved, but family commitments are requiring more of his time, and so it’s time for him to step back.
For a little historical perspective, St. Luke’s has been providing monthly meals in the community since 2009 when parishioners Ron and Sue Clement and Tamara McKinney saw a need among people in the community and went about finding a way to help. As Paul says, “I do believe we stand on the shoulders of giants and that is certainly the case for me and CCK. Ron and Sue and Tamara worked very hard to get this feeding ministry established. I stepped in to captain a ship that was already well underway.”
Hosted on the last Monday of each month from September to June, these meals are offered on a “free will offering” basis and provide a delicious, wholesome meal for many in the community. While typically serving between 65 and 80 people, attendance has often reached 100. As Paul says, “It’s always a group effort. I’m very grateful for the support of everyone who has volunteered their time and talent. I can’t cook, and I have no skill as a host, but I do like to make lists and organize things – so I’ve put my skills to use getting organized for these monthly dinners.” As the dinners and traditions grew, other area parishes have gotten involved to help. Each month, a different parish hosts the dinner at the immaculate kitchen and dining room at St. Luke’s, providing the food, volunteers and decorations on a rotating basis. According to Paul, “We have established a wonderful support network with the other faith communities in East Greenwich. That helps to spread the workload, but also offers a greater sense of community and shared purpose.”
As is often the case in community based efforts, Paul reflects on how meaningful these dinners are for all involved, guests and hosts alike.
“I’m happy and proud that we have provided great food for people, but more importantly we have provided a warm, safe and welcoming place where folks can feel comfortable and enjoy the company of others. Isolation and loneliness can take a toll as great as hunger,” he said.
Particularly at this joyous time of year, the camaraderie amongst the diners and the volunteers on Dec. 18 was evident and clearly provides a sense of warmth for all involved.
“I’m really happy that CCK offers an opportunity for people to volunteer,” says Paul. “We have many folks – unaffiliated with any church – who are happy to donate their time with us. We have a lot of fun while we’re doing good work. I sense that many people are looking for very tangible ways to be helpers, but they are not able to make a big (or long-term) time commitment. CCK offers an opportunity to do something impactful for three hours once a month, and leave with great sense of accomplishment (well deserved).
Clearly, the CCK has been in good hands for many years… and with gratitude to Paul for all his efforts over the past nine years, the tradition will continue to be a reflection of his legacy and those before him, infused with compassion, community and faith.
For anyone interested in either attending or volunteering at CCK, the dinners are held the last Monday of the month at St Luke’s Church, 99 Pierce Street, and begin at 5 p.m. All are welcome. Anyone interested in attending can get more info from the St. Luke’s website or Facebook page.
Project Christmas Angel Thanks
The Interfaith Counseling Center’s “Project Christmas Angel” event, held on Dec. 10 at the West Warwick VFW, was a tremendous success, raising over $2,200. The ICC would like to thank George and Steve with the VFW 449 for hosting Charity Bingo and allowing the Interfaith Counseling Center to be a part of it! The following businesses were gracious in donating raffle items:
Sienna & Company – Cranston
Olde Theatre Restaurant and Lounge – Coventry
The Glam Bar
Maria Manfredo’s House of Basket’s – Johnston
Operation Made – West Warwick
Bean Barn – Coventry
Academy Players of Rhode Island
K (Bay Doggy Daycare & Aquatic Center)
Bill’s Place – West Warwick
Special thanks to family and friends of Kathy Blackburn and “Project Christmas Angel” for the support of this mission to give hope to those who need it the most during this Christmas Season.
Maura Legare has been an East Greenwich resident for over 25 years. With a background in public relations in college athletics, she fostered her passion for local journalism during 20-plus years of volunteer work at OLM School and Parish, Bishop Hendricken and LaSalle Academy while raising her family with her husband Bob. She has served on various advisory boards and is currently a trustee for McAuley Ministries in Providence.