Above: Steve Arsenault and John Keller preparing for a Community Meal in the kitchen at Hope.Gate.Way.

Wayside is pleased to acknowledge the work over the years of volunteers from First Congregational Church of Gray. First working at the former soup kitchen and then at Community Meals at Hope.Gate.Way, these volunteers set the standard for giving back to their community.

Unfortunately, shifts in work schedules and other responsibilities have reduced the group’s availability. So, after years of preparing Wayside meals, the group decided to pass the torch to other volunteers in late 2013.

The work of these volunteers is greatly appreciated.

As Wayside’s Laura Hamilton says, “They were a very special group. They worked so well together. When I first started working at the soup kitchen their group showed me how to make a meal happen. They shared our commitment to using meals as a tool for building community and getting to know our guests.”

Steve Arsenault, a key member of the group, says that he took as much away from the experience as he gave.

“For some of us it was a life changer,” he said recently. “It was an eye opener to open the door and see people flood in at the soup kitchen, just seeing the need, to see the issues and what is going on.”

The transition from working in the soup kitchen to working at Community Meals meant that Arsenault and the other volunteers were able to interact more with guests at the welcoming meals held at Hope.Gate.Way.

“We all love the blurring of the lines (at the Community Meals) and actually getting a chance to talk with the clients,” he said early in the transition. “I can remember standing at Preble Street looking out at 150 people and thinking they all have a different story for being there, but we don't know what it is. Now we do, and it’s an entirely different perspective. We can find out their story and just be a set of ears if need be. Our group is all about fellowship along with outreach, and that's really why I wanted the Hope.Gate.Way gig, as I thought it would be a good fit for us and it is.”

Based upon his experience, Arsenault encourages anyone considering volunteering to contact Wayside.

“Wayside has been great to work with,” he says. “There are many opportunities to help–whether at meals, in the kitchen or in the warehouse.”

Wayside thanks the volunteers from First Congregational Church of Gray for all of their contributions.