NEW BRITAIN - As Newington middle-schooler Elena Timmons helped serve sloppy Joes, potatoes and salad at the Friendship Service Center’s Community Kitchen last week, she observed that it was hard work that also made her feel good.
“You have to work as a team with people,” she said. “It makes me happy because I am helping people.”
Timmons was one of eight members of the John Wallace Middle School Community Club at the soup kitchen as part of their mission to be of service.
In its inaugural year, the club, whose members are 12 to 14 years old, decided to focus on the Friendship Center, said adviser Jessica Morin, an eighth-grade science teacher.
The students made nine blankets and collected 158 pairs of socks to hand out, which they did as they were serving about 200 people who showed up for the daily meal.
In April, they will be back to volunteer again and hand out the toiletries they gathered during their “April Showers” campaign.
The students have also secured $450 in grants to aid the center, which runs the kitchen, an emergency shelter and transitional and permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless people.
The students took a field trip to prepare serve lunch and sort out the pantry as part of the middle school’s focus on getting them prepared for college, career and citizenship, said Morin.
School guidance counselor Dana Kavarsky also advises the club..
The lesson this day was simple, Morin said: “The kids know no matter how hard life gets, they can always help other people and make a difference in their lives.”
They started their morning helping to prepare the meal, then organized the pantry and provided meals to those staying in the emergency shelter, said kitchen director Gerry Waldo.
“They did a great job,” Waldo said. The kids will be back in the spring to serve the evening meal, he said.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this without donations and the community is very helpful,” Waldo said. “I think it’s good to make them (the students) aware that some people are more fortunate than others.”
After preparing the meal, some students stood behind the counter and dished out portions for everyone who passed by in line.
Others spoke with guests who were eating and helped hand out socks and blankets.
“It was very eye-opening,” club member Kristian Kornas said. “You see the struggles people go through. We got to work here with other people. I thought it was a really good experience and I’d like to do it again.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.