Jim Murphy, now retired after 35 years of working for the School Department, was in church Saturday. Well, actually, he was in the basement hall of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, but nonetheless, he was there doing a good deed.
About 25 others including Jacob McNamara, a marine biology student at URI, and Santina Mulligan, a parishioner at St. Mark Church in Cranston, a Catholic parish, were also there. The occasion was the monthly luncheon and pantry held at St. Mark’s on West Shore Road.
Murphy met Bill Catri about four years ago in Dunkin Donuts while they were both still working. They continued to meet off and on and Murphy started driving his friend places after his car was stolen from the Warwick Mall parking lot. Catri lives at Greenwich Village Apartment and is dependent upon Social Security to make ends meet.
The meal and the St. Mark’s pantry, as well as other Warwick-based pantries, help him get through the month. He says he also gets an assist from the folks at Greenwich Village who are “very generous.”
The luncheon offers more than a home-cooked meal – Saturday’s fare was BLT sandwiches on toast served with chips and hot peach cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. The event is also an opportunity to meet friends and make new acquaintances, says Connie Brodeur.
“You’re always sitting at a table with different people,” she says.
That sense of community and helping people who can use it is just what St. Mark’s pastor, Mother Susan Wrathall, aims to achieve. On Saturday 97 meals were served and Mother Susan estimated 150 adults and 30 children benefited from the pantry. Stocking the pantry is dependent upon both contributions of food and money. Pantry shelves are cleared at the end of the month with donations going to the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center.
Mother Susan’s mission is shared by many of her parishioners as well as others outside St. Mark’s like Mulligan.
Mulligan was married in St. Mark’s in 1960, but that’s not the reason she came back to help the kitchen crew with the monthly luncheons. With a career as a diet aide (she worked at Cranston General Hospital before it closed) Mulligan was interested in the St. Mark’s program. She visited and was impressed.
“I love everything they do. They tend to people. There’s kindness and respect,” she said.
“Just because they’re in need it doesn’t mean you can’t respect them.” Mulligan points out that many are just one paycheck away from being in a similar position of need.
Mother Susan was sensitive to how those in attendance might feel about having their names and photographs used for this story. Standing in the middle of the hall, she raised her voice to announce there was a photographer and anyone not wanting to run the risk of having their picture in the paper show their hands. There were laughs and even a few requests to have pictures taken.
Mother Susan concluded it was an especially jovial group, reflective, she surmised, of the spring-like weather. It could also have something to do with the home-style cooking, friendly service and the company.
As Mulligan observed, she also gets a lot out of volunteering.
“It’s a wonderful thing to give,” she said. “You give and it all comes back.”