(unofficially) Summertime!

Memorial Day has passed, marking the unofficial start to summer – although the actual season won’t start for a month or so.  The weather certainly isn’t much of an indicator either!

Calendars, clocks, holidays or weather – whatever marker makes you connect with the change in seasons, all I can say is I’M READY and keep thinking of ways to encourage the warmer weather to hang around (not that my actions make that much of an impact).

One thing I do know… it’s time for some laid back summertime days!  Less schedule, more fireflies!

There’s some catching up to do…a few things that have been on the back burner for a while; there’s some cleaning up to do…a few things that need some spit and polish; and there’s some changes in the air…a few things that have been waiting for the “right time”. For the next couple of weeks, our goal is to simplify our “front end” and give some attention to the behind the scenes details that keep All Are Welcome running smoothly!

Our team of volunteers works very hard preparing, cooking and serving our weekly meals and we think everyone should be able to “take it easy” during the beautiful weather that’s supposed to be just around the corner! We have some student groups joining us for summer service, our menu is going to be a little more basic and (hopefully) we’ll be giving some of our regular staff some more free time!

We could use a few “fill-in” volunteers – even if you only have one day a month to share!  Please feel free to email us at manager@allarewelcome.us or call our office number at 508-443-0243. Even if you’ve never worked in a restaurant before, we’d love to have you give our organization a try!

The JUNE menu is posted on our menu page – if you haven’t eaten at All Are Welcome before, I hope you’ll find something you’d like to try and join us for a community meal soon!  Feel free to print and post our menu and invite friends and family to try us out, also!

Happy Summer!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Different

One month (to the day, actually) since the last new post.  There’s been a lot going on…maybe not at All Are Welcome as much, but some days, that’s ok, too.

Over the last few days, I’ve noticed a lot of posts on Facebook, heard a few (maybe more than a few) meaningful remarks, and experienced some feelings about change, about things being different, and about how there’s always a chance to experience something new.

To some degree, humans are, by nature, resistant to change.  We get caught in the pattern of doing what we do, the way we do it, until it becomes routine and the routine is easy.  Change is scary…it requires work, it requires effort and it requires us to think about things that we hadn’t thought before. Sometimes, we can’t control the changes and sometimes we make choices for deliberate change.

All Are Welcome has been my baby for the last 3 years…what a change in my life this has been!  It is also very different – when you tell folks they only have to pay what they can afford – or what they think their meal was worth – there’s a lot of surprised faces at our tables!

Our mission is to provide access to nutritional meals to everyone regardless of circumstance. We’ve been pretty consistent with that – fresh fruits and veggies, whole grain breads, lots of homemade stuff without all the preservatives and chemicals from processed food, and plenty of focus on portion control to avoid waste and healthy eating habits!

I still feel like we could be doing MORE!  Reaching more people, touching more lives, helping more families and serving more individuals.  I always feel renewed in spring (don’t we all?!)… As the weather gets (slightly) warmer and new growth starts to appear outside, there’s that little twinge inside that says  DO SOMETHING! Something new, something different, something MORE!

So as I consider plans to make MORE happen at All Are Welcome, I ask our supporters to consider that our original mission is about helping those with less…and the problem continues.

An NBC News article on those  who are trying to get by on less.  http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/in-plain-sight/recession-not-over-poor-families-stretch-food-last-n83411

A quote from the article says: “Let’s stop talking about the end of the Great Recession until we can make sure that we get food insecurity rates down to a more reasonable level.” I don’t believe there is a “reasonable level” for a food insecurity rates. NO one should be without food, EVER!

Another recent article from USA Today focuses on the higher cost of food in the supermarket: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/04/16/cpi-shows-food-prices-rising/7742669/

Assistance is going down, prices are going up; MORE people will need access to what All Are Welcome provides – and All Are Welcome will need some help providing it.

I’m prepared to make some changes, dare to be different and encourage neighbors to help neighbors in building our communities…one meal at a time.  I’m looking for some folks who want to make that happen!  Please support us by volunteering, bringing friends to our table, or contributing to our mission!

Check out our May menu and if you haven’t been to All Are Welcome yet, do something DIFFERENT and join us this month!!

 

SPRING

March is nearly over – hopefully, winter goes with it!!

We’ve just posted our April menu.  Our meal selections are a combination of “winter” comfort foods and lighter warm-weather options – it has to get warm eventually, right?

Did you know that when we plan our menus we try to incorporate fresh produce, healthy protein and bread options and try to limit our food choices to avoid high-fat, high-carb and high sugar options as well as provide proper portion sizes?

You may have noticed that we seldom serve meals that include pasta or rice at the center of the dish and instead offer lots of vegetable and fruit options.  

In an effort to offer healthy, delicious food options, we make a lot of our items from scratch – right at All Are Welcome!  Our salad dressings, desserts, soups, sauces, gravies – all made by our dedicated volunteers every week!

Our menu is also designed to fit our unique restaurant situation – we share our kitchen with the Church of Our Saviour, our fresh food and freezer space is limited, so we can’t buy too much in bulk or on sale and “stock up”, and we only serve each meal once per week so we have to be very careful about our estimating the amount of food we need so we’re not wasting!  That’s why sometimes our menus may seem “limited”. We keep certain regular items so there’s always something familiar and then we plan a special, one or two complimentary side dishes and dessert for the lunch meals.  

With this little bit of insight into HOW our dishes and our meals are prepared, we’re inviting your contributions!

While we receive lots of compliments (THANK YOU!) for our meals, we also have folks ask us to serve certain foods…so here’s YOUR chance to tell us what you’d like to see on the menu! We can’t promise that all your suggestions will make the cut, but would love to hear what YOU think should be on our menu!  Got a summer favorite?  Have a sandwich idea that can’t be beat?  Tell us your suggestions and you may just see your wish as a dish!

Post your comments here or on our Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/AAW.42).  If it makes the menu, we’ll give you the credit for the suggestion and let you know when your choices are being served!!

Have fun!

 

Reflections

I imagine I’m not the first to notice that it’s been a pretty rough winter.  Not only did we experience a New England winter in all its, um, glory, but there have been some personal issues in our All Are Welcome family as well.  Two of our long-term, regular volunteers lost family members in early 2014.  With an organization as small as AAW, it’s hard to always separate the professional from the personal.  

In order to rejuvenate, we took a much needed vacation this month. We know closing for a couple of weeks burdened those guests who have come to rely on our program.  We decided a well-rested, energetic staff would be a much greater benefit in the long term.  

We’ve certainly had our positive moments too!

The 2014 RUN FOR YOUR LUNCH was a great success! It was cold, but there was no snow, no ice and clear roads!  We had some fabulous new sponsors and many of our long term supporters turned out to help as well!

Late last fall, the IRS approved our status as a 501c3 charitable organization, so we can independently pursue a wider base of fundraising opportunities.  

But best of all, we are reaching more guests and increasing the numbers at our table each week!  Meeting the needs of our community means fulfilling our mission and on the right path to move forward.  Thank you for all your support and continuing to appreciate what we do!

And so, here in the middle of our resting and relaxing, there are a few behind the scenes actions going on to keep All Are Welcome serving you the best meals and positive dining experience possible our volunteers (and your donations) can provide!

We’ve been talking to some local artists (again) hoping to brighten up our decor, we’ve been working on some administrative things that will improve our volunteer experience and looking at some ways to expand our menu within our service capabilities. Above all that, we’ve been planning our SECOND ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION!

On Saturday, March 17, 2012 we served our first community breakfast…we had Irish themed foods, Irish music, a lot of energy and about 75 guests…by the end of our first year at our 2013 anniversary meal, we had similar Irish tasties, Live Music and over 130 guests!!

We want to top that for our 2nd Anniversary!!!  At St. Patrick’s day, we will be having our Irish themed meal, Scott and Tyler Phillie are going to play, we have giveaways, we’ll be playing a few games for some special prizes, we’ll be having a doorprize drawing of a video camera that retails for around $300…so all we need is YOU!!  How many guests can we serve in 3 1/2 hours? Bring your friends, bring folks that haven’t tried All Are Welcome yet, bring some guests who may benefit from our community meal…we want to serve 150 people to start off our 3rd year in business!  

ImageImage

Try our Irish Breakfast…try our traditional favorites…try our Equal Exchange fair trade coffee and tea…Just TRY us out! Every guest and every gift brings us closer to reaching more folks who are struggling in our area!!

Happy New Year!

Many people look at the turn of the calendar year as a place for new beginnings.  The numbers change – a symbolic turning point to try a new hobby, change bad habits, pursue new goals, clean and organize your surroundings – a magical place to wipe the slate clean and grab a “do-over”!

For me, the new year happens in the wrong season!  I’m much more of a warm weather fan, and find myself with much more energy and enthusiasm for renewal when the ground thaws, the days get longer, the temperature gets warmer and all the greenery begins to emerge!

At All Are Welcome, we have several “renewal points” throughout the year…our Anniversary for opening in March, our Anniversary for Thursday lunch service in June, seasonal menu changes with spring and fall and our big event the RUN FOR YOUR LUNCH5.5K Run/Walk and Chowder Lunch!

Our first RUN was in January 2012, just prior to our opening for service.  With a few phone calls, a few strategically placed friends and family members and more than a little stress we managed to raise enough funds to launch our program on St. Patrick’s Day 2012.  Since that first run, we’ve had a lot of firsts, a lot of fun and made lots of new friends.

Our 2014 Run for Your Lunch was also a GREAT event for us and hopefully for our participants.  We had over 120 runners, dozens of volunteers, a few vendors and lots of wonderful sponsors!!

Special thanks goes out to Northeast Race Management who haul equipment, set up our course, guide our runners and make a safe event for all.

North Congregational Church, UCC also deserves special recognition because they continue to provide us the location to cook, stage and over run their space (on a Sunday, no less) with grace, love and support!

We also want to note that EVERY sponsor, volunteer, and participant are vital to the success of our annual fundraiser, our weekly operations and our continued growth. Attempting to list all of them would make this a very long post – and we run the risk of accidentally leaving someone out (the memory isn’t what it used to be!).  So please know that if you’ve volunteered once or every day since we began; if you ran once or come back year after year…if you gave us $5 or $500…EVERYONE who helps keep us serving our community is vital to our mission!

So, here we are at the end of our 3rd fundraiser, sneaking up on our 2nd anniversary and pondering renewal, change and growth! There are a few things we’d like to be doing better – a few things we’d like to be doing more and a few things we’d like to start!  As we begin this year, we invite YOU to be a part of All Are Welcome…Volunteer! Sponsor! Donate! Share!  Make All Are Welcome part of your 2014 and help us build community, one meal at at time!

Overwhelmed

If you read our posts – or follow us on FaceBook, you may have noticed that most of our posts are written from our organization – not any one person. We’re going to change that a little with this post.

As the founder and manager of the daily operations of All Are Welcome, I juggle a lot of different facets of our organization.  Many of you see me as the “face” of AAW – planning the menus, cooking the meals, coordinating our dedicated crew of volunteers – but there are a number of things I do that keep our mission on track that many don’t see; bookkeeping, shopping for supplies, promotional activities.  One of these tasks is keeping track of how many guests we have for meals each day and reviewing the guest checks for popular items on our menu.

A big part of our mission is to make all of our guests comfortable in their own circumstances by keeping financial information and donations confidential.  It is the very nature of our method to have all guests feel “equal” regardless of their means.  So your notes, stories and information that is shared on our guest checks stays with me.

Through your stories and gifts, I have gotten to know many of you on a more personal level than just guests in the AAW dining room.  Many of you have also gotten to know me (I don’t think there’s a “regular” among you who doesn’t know the tales of my silly rescue puppies!), though I do work to keep a certain level of professionalism, it is hard not to share our lives and our circumstances.  Which means that many of you know that the last few weeks have been a bit stressful and chaotic in my personal life.

Let’s bring this around to the point of this post. At our most recent Saturday meal, I had reached my wall; you know, that point where I just didn’t  think I could accomplish one more thing, take one more step or find one more bit of strength within me.  I was at a point where I thought we should close the restaurant early so I could just go home and hide.

I was reminded that I had made some “closing time” plans and couldn’t stop service early and had to finish according to our regularly posted schedule.  Well, in that last hour of service, a few things we would have missed, had I closed early;  we had one guest who truly benefited from our service that day – and I told her how glad I was she came in.  Another special person came in and provided a much needed set of hands when I was out of energy. Finally, when I reconciled the accounts for the weekend, I found a very generous donation for our service that day – from a party that I know wouldn’t have been in if I had closed early.

Naturally, I won’t mention any names.  This story could be about you, or one of hundreds of others who have been in the right place at the right time over the last weeks, months or years – or even in the days to come.  The message I hope you take away from this – and it is the very heart of what I envisioned when I first imagined All Are Welcome  – we are ONE community.  Today, you may be the one in need or the one who has extra to give.  Tomorrow, those places could change and the one who gave generously before, may need something extra; the one who was struggling 3 months ago, may be able to offer something more.  “Something” is not always money and it’s not always the food…a kind heart to hear your story, new energy to help lighten the load, a gentle word that lifts a spirit…

For all of you…for all you are…for who you were this weekend.  I am overwhelmed by who you are, and I am thankful!

What’s Next

What a FUN Thanksgiving.  Yes, like anything there was the chaos, and commotion and a bit of stress but when all is said and done…it was a very fun and fulfilling day – and the food wasn’t bad either!

Which brings us to the “holiday season”.  Regardless of what one (s) you celebrate or if you don’t celebrate any.  We recognize this is not always “the most wonderful time of the year”.  So instead, we spend this time of year focusing on being neighbors, building our community and working hard to live up to our name – All Are Welcome.

One important event for us at this time of year is the school recess. Students and families who usually get one or two meals per week through the school system may find themselves struggling when there is no lunch program available. It has been our mission during school breaks to do everything we can to reach these folks and let them know that All Are Welcome is available for two meals per week.

Many people are embarrassed to admit they are having trouble putting food on the table. We are encouraging all of our friends, supporters and followers – especially those who have enjoyed a meal with us – to invite friends, neighbors and families who haven’t visited to try All Are Welcome.  It’s as simple as inviting a friend to lunch!

Hope to see you and meet some new friends soon!