Do You Smell Pumpkin Pie?
If you live in Massachusetts or Rhode Island and happen to catch a whiff of holiday cheer while passing a slightly weathered station wagon, you’ve just encountered Ty and Vicky Shen.
This father and daughter team have become local heroes, especially around the holidays, since they began delivering hot, healthy meals across the state in 2001. They love the open road, but the real joy is in the reaction they receive from those they serve.
They’re not in this alone. The Shens are only one of the teams regularly volunteering with Community Servings, a Massachusetts non-profit food program which specializes in modified meals for families and individuals with specific medical restrictions or other needs, often due to severe or chronic illnesses. That means the Shens and other volunteers reach households often unserved by similar programs because their needs are so specific.
Of course, neither the Shens nor Community Services forget about the families and caregivers involved. Every spouse, in-law, nurse, and child receives their own hot holiday meal.
The extra time and effort is more than worth it, they assure us.
“Those who can help, should,” says Ty. “Regardless if it’s time or other resources, helping our fellow man is our responsibility.” Vicky seems to agree.
“Volunteering with my dad is one of my favorite things to do,” she says. “I get to spend time with him, and the people at Community Servings are so wonderful. Most importantly, it feels great to do something on a daily basis helps people’s lives be a little bit better.”
Bringing It Together
Food is more than an essential requirement for life. It often means security, and comfort. Sometimes it represents plenty, but even in humble circumstances it can facilitate a sense unity and thanks.
“One of the most important elements of the holidays this time of year is togetherness,” says a representative from Community Services. “Sharing a meal has been a demonstration of trust, intimacy, and togetherness over the centuries and across cultures.”
That togetherness doesn’t just start when meals are delivered; it’s part of the process from the very beginning. Community Services volunteers prepare each dish on site, paying careful attention to the different restrictions and dietary needs they’ll be serving that day. Teams like the Shens spend most of their time delivering, but they’re no strangers to peeling potatoes or chopping cabbage or even – in a pinch – stuffing a bird or two.
It’s an enormous undertaking each and every time, but what determines whether or not it’s enjoyable work is the people involved, and the mindset they bring to the task. And most of the time, that makes Community Services as much of a family as those they serve during the holidays and throughout the year.
“Each year, our volunteers give more than 55,000 hours of service, which is the equivalent to almost 30 full time employees,” says David Waters, CEO of Community Servings. “There’s no way we could do any of this without their passion and their commitment.”
That passion and commitment are quickly driving Community Services towards their eight millionth meal. That’s right – eight with six zeroes after it! But the Shens, like most of those involved, don’t think of it in terms of the millions, or even the thousands of meals prepared and delivered each day.
To them, it’s always about the next door opened. The next family served. The next face smiling in recognition and appreciation. It’s always about the one at a time.
And as long as it’s up to the Shens, it always will be.