A sense of belonging for needy
The needy, the homeless and the downtrodden said they felt a true sense of belonging as they gathered for a wholesome Christmas feast.
About 200 guests braved the rain on Thursday evening for the Grateful Bread event in the St Andrew’s Church Hall, Hamilton. They received a full plate of homemade food and the opportunity to take home some donated clothes and toiletries.
It is the twelfth event this year thanks to Juliana Snelling, her Grateful Bread team and a growing cadre of volunteers who helped to bring not only some festive cheer to the guests but a sense of acceptance and love.
There was a high turnout of seniors including one man who enjoyed a rendition of Happy Birthday having recently celebrated his 89th birthday.
Sitting down to his ice cream dessert, he told us: “They sang to me — I was born on December 13, in 1928. This event is a good idea — somehow they find a way that they can give back to the community. The good God provides for us.”
Another senior named Darlene said the event helped to relieve the stress that comes at Christmas time when you are struggling financially.
“I don’t have much, I am living on a pension — a fixed income. I lived in the States for a while so wasn’t paying into the pension. Tonight, I got a full meal — I had some mac and cheese, some turkey, pasta, mash and veg and even some ice cream. I also got a few clothes for my granddaughter and my family. I got this little stuffed animal for my granddaughter, she will love it, it looks almost new.”
Her friend Sabirah added: “This is really wonderful for the seniors and the less fortunate. The people serving the food have been beautiful, everything is so well organised.” One woman said that Bermuda’s prices made it difficult to get by day to day. She said: “This is important because it helps the needy people.
“For me to buy some stuff it would be hard — Bermuda isn’t cheap. I am not with this church but I do go to church and this is what it is all about. There are people with very few friends or family but here they can have company and good food in a warm safe environment.”
Grateful Bread was launched by Ms Snelling and a group of her colleagues at Canterbury Law in January. Every month on the last Thursday they put on a meal for the needy at the hall. In the beginning there were about 30 volunteers but that figure has rocketed to about 120.
The volunteers were full of smiles rushing around serving, cleaning, dishing out clothes and engaging with the guests to make them feel at home.
Volunteer Stacy Thakur reluctantly shared some thoughts on volunteerism to encourage others to get out and give.
“I love volunteering and giving back — I keep coming every month,” she said.
“I like people and like giving to those less fortunate, my mom raised me like that. It fills you up — it is God’s work. The people have been so grateful and happy. Some of them can be upset but you have to understand they are going through tough times.”
She said of volunteering: “You won’t know until you go. People can be antsy about seeing the other face of Bermuda but it is not scary — any of us can wear these shoes, life happens.
“I have done this most months this year and you start seeing the same faces and eventually they becomes a little family — the Grateful Bread family. If you are not comfortable serving the food you can jump into something else — you can do washing up or help set up or just drop off your baked goods once a month. There’s always a way. These people know that once a month they will be fed and treated with respect and loved on for a couple of hours.”
Ms Snelling was in her Mrs Claus outfit and despite having her arm in a sling she was happily doing the good work.
She said: “Despite the drizzle there has been a great turn out. Some have been waiting outside since 4.30pm [for a 6pm start].
“This is our 12th month. It is really a celebration of thanksgiving. Volunteers cook some of the food but if you are busy like me or you are a bad cook we have volunteer restaurants that give each month — Primes give soup, Bermuda Waterworks donates pure water, Costanzo at Blu gives us pasta dishes, House of India donates delicious curry.
“Docksiders will cook some food and some of their customers donate money towards it and MarketPlace also donates.”
She added: “There are two Bermuda’s as much as we try to deny it. We have seen the racial and political divisions that led up to the election that made everybody feel awful.
“In this room all of that is absent — there is no religion, no race, no politics, no class, it is everybody getting together.
“There are a lot of people here who can’t afford a nutritious meal or to go out with friends. We had a couple of guests who are now hosts and two who we will pay to clean the venue after the event.”
Anyone interested in volunteering or donating to Grateful Bread can call Canterbury Law and mention the Grateful Bread programme on 296-8444.