Packing meals for those who need them

By ERIN O'BRIEN
Posted 4/1/20

On a blustery, sunny Friday afternoon they gathered. In a church parking lot, a small group of 10 first donned plastic gloves and bowed their heads in prayer before joining the assembly line, observing the six feet of social distance as

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Packing meals for those who need them

Posted

On a blustery, sunny Friday afternoon they gathered. In a church parking lot, a small group of 10 first donned plastic gloves and bowed their heads in prayer before joining the assembly line, observing the six feet of social distance as they packaged 150 meals.

For the past three years, the Mother Teresa Ministry’s mission has been to provide healthy, freshly cooked meals and gently used clothing with dignity to communities in Oakland Beach and West Warwick.

Formed by a group of parishioners of Warwick’s Saints Rose and Clement Catholic Church, and with their pastor’s blessing, they set out to emulate Saint Mother Teresa as the hands of God.

Twice a month, group members volunteer as meal coordinators, who create the menu, shop for the ingredients, and supervise the preparation in the church kitchen. Every volunteer who prepares food is ServSafe certified. The meal is packed in insulated coolers or warming containers as needed.

As the threat of the coronavirus loomed, it became evident that necessary changes would have to be implemented. For the present, serving the freshly cooked dinners and home-baked desserts in an indoor setting has been suspended.

With the generous donation of fresh produce from Tourtellot & Co., along with the careful planning and shopping by group member Deb Nelson, a “grab and go” meal was created in its place. Each package included a large can of vegetable soup, a baking potato, one fresh banana, a bag of Famous Amos cookies, and bottled water.

On Friday, two caravans carrying the packaged meals traveled to two separate locations, where the group has been embraced in each community. In an answer to a prayer, and just as the weather was turning colder one winter, the First Congregational Church of Oakland Beach, and Saints John and James Catholic Church in West Warwick each agreed to sponsor the Mother Teresa Ministry. This meant the opportunity to move from a sidewalk and parking lot when these two indoor locations were provided. Tablecloths and table decorations transform these spaces for an hour or so into little cafes, with the aroma of food and pleasant conversation.

Over the past three years, Mother Teresa members and their guests have come to know each other by name. Guests like the quahog fisherman, who once thanked group members with a burlap bag of quahogs he’d harvested earlier in the day, and the “Mayor of Oakland Beach,” who hand delivers meals to his home bound neighbors and empties the trash cans, are familiar faces.

Two women approached the table of food at Oakland Beach on Friday, the group having temporarily returned to its original sidewalk service to maintain safe social distancing outdoors. “We saw some people doing good, so we thought we’d stop by,” one said in greeting. They were delighted to each receive packaged meals for themselves and their families, along with a bag of produce for later in the week.

Across the street appeared the friendly faces of a young man and his mother. In his excitement, the young man ran towards a group member to offer her a hug, but not before she and his mother extended their arms and cautioned, “Stop!” In his eagerness he’d momentarily forgotten about the required 6 feet of separation. He smiled broadly.

“I’ve received so many blessings from you,” his mother later addressed the group. “I received such nice Christmas presents from my son that he picked out from you.”

It touched her listeners to picture him browsing through a bin of women’s carefully folded pieces of clothing, before taking them home and wrapping them. The image lingered.

The Mother Teresa Ministry offers meals and gently used clothing at 5:00 p.m. on the second Tuesday and fourth Friday of each month.

During this period of social distancing, grab and go meals will be provided instead, and clothing will not be offered.

The two meal locations are:

First Congregational Church of Warwick

715 Oakland Beach Avenue

Warwick, RI 02889

Saints John and James Catholic Church

20 Washington Street

West Warwick, RI 02893

For information on donations to provide meals, please contact Saints Rose and Clement Catholic Church at (401) 739-0212.

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