Today a hardy group from our church hosted the annual St. Nicholas Day Pancake Breakfast for the Homeless down in Grant Park in Atlanta, GA. The Loaves and Fishes ministry at St. John the Wonderworker has been feeding daily meals to the homeless and poor here for over 20 years. What a blessing to wake up early, have a cup of coffee and make the trek down there to assist with this endeavor. As we approach the kitchen door, its 34 degrees. Wearing blankets, hats, gloves, and as many layers of clothing as they can manage, the men are already gathering, waiting for a meal still 2 hours in the future. They greet me: “Good morning!” “Merry Christmas!” I am in awe of their spirit, their will to survive these harsh conditions they’ve grown so accustomed to. I am thankful that we can provide a brief moment of relief to their suffering.
For this event, we get several volunteers from our parish to wake up extra early and go down to L & F’s commercial kitchen to whip out a meal for 30 – 60 homeless. While it is uncomfortable getting out of a warm bed, our teens love this project. They love volume cooking and have a blast cracking eggs and cracking jokes as we prep. They know what a blessing it is to serve these men.
This day, we prepared a hearty breakfast of pancakes, sausages, bacon, eggs, and fruit. It took us a good 2 hours to prep it. Gary, the intrepid head cook, helped us with all the preparations and made a few jokes of his own. He’s from Brooklyn, but we allowed it. After he gave us a few words in Brooklynese, like “coffee” and “sausages” we got down to work making the spread. The pancakes were the biggest project, taking about 1.5 hours to cook on the massive gas stove. The eggs were cooked easily by spraying muffin tins with oil and then cracking about 4 dozen and placing them into each opening before placing in a 400 degree oven. The bacon and the sausages also baked in the hot oven. The last few minutes are a scramble to get everything hot and finished and laid out on trays.
Next we arranged the trays of food on a table to create plates. At 9:00, Fr Tom arrived to offer a blessing and a few instructions. Then we made plates and sent them out the door to the hungry men. I think there was at least one woman in the crowd. Some came back for seconds, their head lifted and faces showed alleviation. Lots of thanks and smiles followed and the guys hung around the courtyard as we cleaned up.
It was over in a flash. I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to do this.
What a wonderful way to commemorate St. Nicholas who was the most generous of early Christians. As is still tradition, St. Nick did his work for the needy in secret, behind the scenes. I hope this little bit of warm goodness, brought forth from this simple kitchen, by these few random folks was a blessing to all those who showed today.