What a difference a shed makes

| 22 Feb 2012 | 02:36

Girl Scout Gold Award project gives Our Father’s Soup Kitchen the ability to feed more people in need MONROE - A newly built shed on the grounds of Sacred Heart Chapel, the home of Our Father’s Kitchen, the area’s only soup kitchen, has helped make it possible for soup kitchen volunteers to provide meals to more than 80 people on a weekly basis. And it also serves as a symbol of unity spearheaded by two young women who are Senior Girl Scouts in the Monroe Girl Scout community and who have just completed the requirements for their Gold Award, the highest award at Girl Scout can earn. Last year, after reading about the soup kitchen in The Photo News and hearing about it at Sacred Heart Church, Monroe residents Liz Stevenson and Danielle Waldron, both seniors at Monroe-Woodbury High School, thought they might be able to focus their Gold Award activities on a project to help the soup kitchen advance its mission of helping those who are hungry with a free, home cooked meal. “We saw a real need at the soup kitchen,” said Stevenson. “Through the years, we have had many service opportunities. This one just seemed to be the one to culminate all of our opportunities.” “This is something we wanted to be a part of,” added Waldron, who plans on studying pharmacology next year in college. What should the project be? The young women met with Jonelle Rizzi and Betsy Johnston, coordinators of the parish’s Community Outreach Program, to get their views of what would be most useful. “They came to us and asked us how they could help and what would be a lasting contribution,” said Rizzi. “They wanted to do something to help, and storage is a big problem here.” Big is an understatement. The basement of the chapel is also home to Our Mother’s Cupboard, a community program where mothers who are in financial straits can go to for free baby items like diapers, formula, clothing and food. With a newly renovated kitchen, small volunteer office, high chairs for the littlest soup kitchen patrons, cupboards for diapers and other baby sundry items, mounds of donated food and baby items, dishes and silverware, meeting materials for Bingo and Alcoholics Anonymous gatherings, space was getting tighter. A shed, Rizzi and Johnston felt, could store all those things currently which were scattered throughout the dining area. Not only would there be better organization, it would free up space in the main dining area which would then allow the soup kitchen to accommodate more people. ‘Always somebody there to help’ “Our volume varies, and it’s on an upswing now,” said Rizzi. “It’s in the high 80s now, weekly.” Stevenson and Waldron put together a plan that took a year to bring to fruition. During that time, they needed to go before the village’s Zoning Board to request fee waivers for variance applications. They had to learn about the variance process itself and local ordinances, including making presentations and working with officials and the funeral home next to the chapel to request a lot line variance (Tom Flynn happily obliged). A variance to erect the shed close to the chapel was also required. “They (the village) wanted to help us as much as they could,” said Stevenson, who plans on studying history and the social sciences in college next year. “There was always somebody there to help us.” They presented their plan for a 10 foot by 12 foot shed to Superior Sheds in New Hampton. Company officials modified a kit to incorporate all the needs the soup kitchen might have, and discounted the price to the lowest possible one. Sacred Heart Church assisted with funds to make the actual purchase, a local excavator company donated services to provide the surface leveling, and there were donations for stone pavers, landscape and other building supplies to give the young women all they would need to finalize their project. With assistance from their fathers and others, the girls quickly learned that constructions projects aren’t easy undertakings. “It’s definitely harder than it looks,” said Waldron with a chuckle, noting she’s now more proficient with a hammer and has the black and blue fingers to prove it. “I learned how to use tools. I learned about leveling. I learned about how to get things to stay together.” Stevenson agreed, adding: “Construction is very complicated. It took us a whole day to get the framework up. Our dads helped with the roofing.” The Senior Girl Scouts are working with church and soup kitchen officials to plan an official dedication ceremony for the shed, but in the meantime the shed is already in use, freeing up needed space in the dining area. “They absolutely did all the work and did everything by the book, which astonished the town,” said Rizzi. “This was not a project we would have had the time to tackle. This makes the soup kitchen a better place. It fulfills a need, which in this case is significant. We can now make that seating area less cluttered and we can serve more people. We could never have been able to do this.” - Nancy Kriz

It makes me feel absolutely phenomenal to build something as simple as a shed and see how a shed can help so many people in the community. There’s a sense of accomplishment you feel at the end by helping so many people. It’s giving back to the community. It’s definitely worth all the effort.” Danielle Waldron