ON FEBRUARY 4, THE MONTCLAIR TIMES PUBLISHED A COLUMN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING AT TONI’S KITCHEN BY “CHOICE CUTS” COLUMNIST KAREN SCHLOSS DIAZ.
THIS IS THE TEXT OF THE COLUMN:
Serving cheery meals at Toni’s Kitchen
When the 12-year-old began thinking on places to volunteer this semester, it’s no surprise that Toni’s Kitchen was at the top of the list. It’s within walking distance from our house; they do great work, and for years, she’s been donating money earned from crafts projects to them.
I called to find out the requirements for pre-teen volunteers, and learned that an adult needed to accompany them. So I signed us up, knowing our day there would make a great column. I’d visited long ago to observe the culinary and dining room teams in action. It was time for a second look.
If you’re not familiar with Toni’s Kitchen, well, I’m happy to acquaint you. They’re located at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on South Fullerton Avenue. For more than 30 years, they’ve been providing hot, delicious meals for those who show up (sometimes as many as 80 a day) without screening for income or need. Their mission statement?
“To Serve Our Guests.”
Additionally, Toni’s Kitchen offers services that include wellness programs and skills-training opportunities.
The 12-year-old and I show up promptly at 3 p.m. on a Sunday. It’s great to see so many volunteers; easily 20 people ranging in age from 10 to, ahem, much older (like me).
Tara Chowaniec, the volunteer coordinator; Anne Mernin, director of outreach for Toni’s Kitchen; and their associates, divide us into teams. Lucy and I are on the kitchen team. I watch, impressed, as seasoned volunteers open refrigerated cases and pull out fresh basil and thyme. “Let’s try and make a pesto,” I hear one suggest. “We need to find nuts.”
Someone pulls out bags of washed greens, ripe tomatoes. In minutes, the menu is finalized.
Everyone dons a royal blue apron and the kitchen and dining room become fully alive, vibrating with activity and good intention. Kids are put to work sanitizing tables and putting down dishesand flowers.
“Dawn and Chris are lead cooks this evening,” Anne explains. “That means, they’re going to run our kitchen.”
She presents a rundown of how the next few hours will evolve: “Our guests arrive at 5.
“They help themselves to drinks at the front, they seat themselves. On Sunday nights, we do an appetizer course, main course and dessert.
“At the end of the meal, we round up extra food for our guests to take home. They get a little shopping bag and choose whatever they’d like.”
Two women drop by from the food pantry at First Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Elmwood Avenue. They drop off half a sheet cake, a box of cucumbers, lettuce and loaves of bread. Everyone stops to chat.
We were off and running…
In This Column:
Toni’s Kitchen: 73 South Fullerton Ave., email@example.com, 973-932-0768
Columnist Karen Schloss Diaz is a partner in diaz • schloss communications, a Montclair-based hospitality marketing and consulting firm.