Symphony Members Help Orchestrate in a Local Soup Kitchen
Early in the morning, at 7:30am on Thursday and Friday of each week, the kitchen at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Ballard is bustling with activity. The coffee pot is surging, there are boxes of food donations being sorted and organized, and the first helping hands are chopping onions or fresh fruit. All of this is preparation to feed between 100-150 people on Fridays at lunchtime. Most who come to the church for lunch are homeless and less fortunate, people who live on the street or have very low income. They include the elderly, women, children, and men, who are all struggling with meeting their basic needs. Several of the helping hands in the kitchen are Seattle Symphony members, who are volunteering before going downtown to rehearsal. Longtime violinist Linda Cole and retired violinist Sue Gregory have been helping out for years, as well as flutist and piccolo player Zart Dombourian Eby. Clarinetist Laurie DeLuca is the newest member of the crew.
About three years ago, Sue, recently retired, was telling Linda about her volunteer work at a feeding program at St. Luke’s. This was something Linda had been interested in doing for quite some time. One day she just showed up at the kitchen at St. Luke’s and asked if they could use some help. "Since then, I’ve peeled a lot of potatoes, chopped a lot of onions and made more cakes than I can count."
There are many volunteers who make the meal possible each week. Nancy Rogers, a longtime member of St. Luke’s Parish has directed the program since its beginning over 20 years ago. The kitchen staff is made up of people from the St. Luke’s congregation, other churches in the community, and people from the community at large. They are also assisted by men from “Victory Outreach,” a halfway-house in Ballard. These are men whose lives are mending as they recover from substance abuse or time spent in prison.
Food donations come from Food Lifeline, the Ballard Food Bank, and several local retail grocery stores and private donations. All cash donations go directly to the purchase of food, kitchen equipment or repairs. There is no overhead, no paid staff, no offices. All money goes directly to the cause. "The menu is shaped by what is available that day which leads to some very creative cuisine," says Zart. "We try to make due with whatever is available to make the best tasting, most nutritious meal. Nothing is wasted."
Laurie recognizes that "many of our orchestra members draw similarities between the cooperation and teamwork that happens in the kitchen with the necessary components that make up a successful symphony orchestra. The sense of community comes into play as well as creativity, camaraderie, leadership and a sense of doing for the greater good, whether the purpose is to create a delicious meal or a magnificent performance of a symphony. Both address the importance of a fundamental need for people to be fed, both physically and spiritually."
Linda sums up her experience beautifully: "For a lot of our clientele, Friday Lunch is the highlight of their week. They come out of the cold to this refuge where they are treated with kindness and respect, where they find nourishment if only for a day. I'm moved by the kindness of these people, by their appreciation, by their humanness. A person can not help but come away from this experience each week with a greater sense of gratitude for good health, a job, a home and a family."
Donations to Friday lunch can be made to:
St. Luke's Episcopal Church
5710 22nd Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107