Chattering Mind

Chattering Mind

Nudged into the Soup Kitchen

Earlier this week, I worked five hours–from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.–at a well-run local soup kitchen. I made about 30 gallons of soup with three other people, washed a heap of cherry tomatoes, and made a quart of salad dressing. Then we served the meal, stacked the dishes, and cleaned both the kitchen and the serving area.

Every time I do this, I have to stay up until one or two in the morning preparing my CM blog for the following day. I don’t mind though. It feels good to work hard for someone else.

But guess what: I’m getting far more than an altruistic rush out of this. In exchange for working at the soup kitchen monthly, I receive work/membership credit from the Park Slope Food Co-op, which then enables me to purchase every conceivable kind of health food at a discount. Because the Co-op is owned and operated by some 8,000 unpaid members like me, it doesn’t need to mark up its prices the way a conventional store would. Plus, the Co-op has the best produce in Brooklyn. Dare I say, all of New York? Only the local farmer’s markets are as good.


Of course, I’d like to think I’d work in a soup kitchen monthly without the Co-op membership perk. And I have volunteered my services many times in the past, but never on as strict a schedule.

I’m confident that most of you volunteer through your house of worship or some other venue and out of the goodness of your heart. But I know that if the Food Co-op didn’t regularly lure me into the soup kitchen, I wouldn’t help feed the hungry as often; activities with my kids would intervene. I know I’m opening myself up to ridicule for confessing that it takes a perk to regulate my volunteerism. But as more companies are encouraging their employees to do something for their community in exchange for work credit or another reward, I’d love to engage you guys in a conversation about how it might be okay to foster helpfulness throughout society this way. I’m grateful to the Co-op. The whole exchange is good for everybody.


Are you employed by a company that encourages you to tutor, cook, pick up trash or in other ways give to your community? Tell us about it. If you’re on your own or volunteering through your church or synagogue, are you loyal to your community service commitments? What keeps you going? Has volunteering with a friend you wouldn’t see as much become an extra incentive? Let us hear your story!

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posted September 29, 2006 at 11:40 pm

I help with the homeless ministry at my church doing clerical work and data entry. I enjoy it. :)

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posted September 30, 2006 at 10:42 pm

You said “But I know that if the Food Co-op didn’t regularly lure me … I wouldn’t help feed the hungry as often; activities with my kids would intervene. I know I’m opening myself up to ridicule for confessing that it takes a perk to regulate my volunteerism. . I appreciate your honesty and understand what you’re saying. I belong to one non-profit that sees a surge of workers only when we give out movie passes. (And the work gets done.) Another provides breakfast and people blow in from out of town. (And the work gets done.) I once worked for a company that provided paid time-off for volunteer work. I did Greenpeace and Junior Achievement while my best chum went surfing; he then “paid back” the time over the weekend. And yes, the work got done. Voluneteering has many faces. Today I helped paint a classroom at a daycare center. There was more work than volunteers, but it felt almost effortless because of the spirit that brought us together. To me, it was an act of holiness. But I didn’t always get this. I once did volunteer work begrudgingly, selfishly, and with a sense of duty, or even guilt. I often thought more of how it would fit my schedule than benefit another. Today I do it with an open heart, thinking of the people I’m serving. I’m full of gratitude for the privilege and the wherewithall to meet someone else’s need.

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posted October 3, 2006 at 1:53 pm

I volunteer at The International Soundex Reunion Registry ( It’s a non-profit, mutual consent reunion registry for family members and blood relations. I started out going in two days a week for 2 hours, then it was three days, then 4 hours; and, now I am in from 8am to 2-4pm every day. Like Daria, I’m full of gratitude for the privilege and the wherewithall to help meet someone else’s need.

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