becoming the change we wish to see
1st Evangelical Lutheran Church Interview (Mike Norris)
As I interviewed Mike Norris I learned that he has been a member of this church for over 40 years. Although 1st Lutheran church had been helping for the past 28 years, Mike was only faintly aware of his churches connection to the friendship house. That was, until one night about 20 years ago when he was asked to help serve food for a night. Mike said “that really changed pretty much my whole perception of what this mission was all about, just to be there and participate in it.” For the last 8 years, he has overseen preparation and volunteer coordination for 1st Lutheran's dining services at the friendship house which occurs on the last Tuesday of every month.
When do you volunteer and how long has this been going on?
- Last Tuesday of every month, 28 years
What got you involved?
“I was on the social ministry committee of our church helping with the many outreach ministries, you know, part of our credo is to serve our fellow man.” “And so I was attending our very last meeting for the term and heard that our meal process for the friendship house had fallen apart and was in complete Desiree because it was left in the hands of one or two people. sometimes they didn’t have food for people and tom would just have to make something up on the spot, and sometimes they would arrive with the food after the café staff had already begun to prepare a replacement meal. It was in dire need of an organized system with a flow, plus someone to oversee it”
“my interest in friendship House happened in that first time I served food down there and I actually saw the human need in front of me. I witnessed the appreciation and the devastation in some people, in terms of their lives, and the importance of outreach, that’s when it called my attention to it”.
What is your favorite part?
“The servers, they get the real reward as they are serving and interacting with the people because that’s where the real payoff is. It is not a matter of being do-gooders but there is such value in being aware of what the needs are of the local people. I mean just basic human needs like food, secondly you are reminded of your own blessings and realizing that there is far more reward in giving than receiving, you see it there. Once again, people that help are reminded of their own blessings of being able to help and that is the real value of this thing.”
what changes have you seen?
- When mike first started helping, 8 years into 1st Lutherans mission, he says that they were serving up to 35 people per meal out of the tiny kitchen in the men's house but has seen it grow to serve from 50 to 150 people per meal. “When we first started they had this little kitchen in the Men’s house and it was just too cramped, hardly any place to sit but then it was just 30 or 40 people at a time. “
-one of the biggest challenges is finding the resources to provide enough so that everyone can be fed. “Sometimes we run short, we never know how many are going to be there but neither do the staff, but you know, that comes with the territory. and we only serve on the last Tuesday of every month which shows you just a tiny portion of what the kitchen manager, Tom, must deal with. On our service day’s we make sure to send in extra bits, just in case that there are more people than expected.”
How do you supply and sustain this?
“my role is that of coordinator, my role is to make sure all of the people and all of the menu items are in the right place at the right time. What we do is put up a list of what we will need for a meal. Meat, salad dressing, brownies, All of this stuff. The green beans and cheese we provide, but the rest of it all comes from volunteers who sign up to bring these things.”
“There are four moving parts besides me, first are the people who contribute the menu items. it all has to be there by 2 pm on Tuesday afternoon at our church kitchen, 3 hours before serving so that I can know what is there and what’s not, and if it is not there then I have to get it there. The next moving part is gathering, preparing and heating up the food. Then, the next moving part is the person who comes to pick it up by 4 pm and transports it to the Café. then they set it up for the servers and do final preparations. And the final moving part is the servers who come in at a quarter to 5 and begin to serve.
“All of this is just for one day and We are just one cog in this machine that seems to work, but I know that they are short and could use more help”
- the main meal served is sloppy joe served with green beans, bacon and a salad.
- The friendship house “is a vital part of our community and they’ve done a really good job getting the word out to the community and there’s been a pretty good response, for heaven's sake, the kitchen was built by contributions and volunteer work. One of the guys from my crew is a surveyor and he did all the surveying for free to survey the area for the kitchen”
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