Chicken Soup for the Soul

By Lawrence Panzo

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” – Graham Bell

If I could describe the soup kitchen in a single term, it would be “organized”.  As we arrived at Salvation Army Vancouver’s Harbour Light Soup Kitchen, an orderly line made up of people from all walks of life, from senior citizens to homeless people, formed outside the dining hall in anticipation for their meal.

We entered the dining area where we were greeted by the smiling faces of the soup kitchen service team – some of whom are in the Salvation Army rehabilitation program themselves. They showed us to a room where we could securely keep our belongings and gave us clean aprons to wear for service.  The service area is cleaner than most restaurants and the food is exceptional. Each patron received a large portion of food: sandwich, chicken congee, 2 dinner rolls, 2 yogurts and a pint of fresh blueberries.  We served 224 people that day, though, on a regular day the kitchen serves more than 400 needy people.

Some of our Rover Scout Group volunteers were stationed in the kitchen in an efficient and fast-paced assembly line, each person adding an item to the food tray.  While doing so we made friendly conversation with the staff, who were also volunteers.  Most of them had been at the Soup Kitchen for a number of years.  They told us a little about themselves and inquired about our group and what we do.  We connected because we were all there to give our time to serve our community.

Other volunteers of our Scout Group were situated in the dining area, where they had more direct contact with the people in the community. They greeted them and helped to clear up the tables as people finished their meals to make room for the next person.

Our Rover, Michael Hryhoriw, helping to serve water and drinks to those in need.

Volunteering in the Downtown Eastside made us step back from our routine life.  Helping in the soup kitchen was not the same as helping in the kitchen at home. We often take things for granted in our lives, food being one of them. Lending a helping hand in the soup kitchen by helping to give people access to a nutritious meal was a rewarding feeling.

While we may have gone into the soup kitchen thinking we were changing lives, we received so much more from the experience.  It was intimidating at first to walk into this type of environment, interacting with people we do not usually do. But as we handed out each tray of food and saw the people enjoying their meals we grew more sympathetic and compassionate.

Some of our Rover Scouts at the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen

“The highest form of wisdom is kindness.” -The Talmud

This was one of those opportunities that everyone should experience.  We received an education in kindness, teamwork, joy, giving and compassion – a lesson not easily learned.  We will definitely volunteer at the Salvation Army Vancouver’s Harbour Light kitchen again.


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