Please, your help is needed…

The last Saturday of each month, Roger and Jean carpool at 6:15am from St. John Fisher taking along a variety of volunteers – first timers, confirmation candidates, young and old alike work along side seasoned veterans.  To sign on to Roger or Jean’s crew this month or to be contacted in the future, please call them at 248-693-4257 or rbajorek10-8@comcast.net.

How Manna Community Meal and The Corner Shower and Laundry came to be.

Manna Community Meal Soup Kitchen began in 1976 out of a storefront on Michigan Avenue in the Corktown area of Detroit.  The Catholic parishes in the neighborhood had homeless people coming to the rectories asking for food.  The Catholic Worker Community had just moved into the neighborhood and agreed to manage the soup kitchen.  Six months later, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church opened its doors to Manna Meal and it has been there ever since.

Father Tom Lumpkin joined the Catholic Worker Community and began managing the kitchen in 1978.  Marianne Arborgast joined the community in 1980 and Jeff DeBruyn joined in 2006.  Over the years, Tom and Marianne began to share the responsibility of managing the kitchen.  They depend on help from Jeff and the efforts of an army of volunteers to provide food five days each week to the poor and less fortunate among us.  Many of the guests who come to Manna are homeless.  Some are mentally ill and many struggles with addiction.  Job opportunities are next to none and transportation is nonexistent.  They find themselves trapped.  And so, Father Tom says “the biblical story of God feeding a homeless and hungry people in the desert continues to happen at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.” 

Jean and I really don’t remember when we first ventured down to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church to volunteer at the Soup Kitchen.  It was before the turn of the century!  St. John Fisher Chapel had committed to provide eight to ten volunteers as kitchen help on the last Saturday of each month.  We signed up over two decades ago and never looked back.   

Over time, it became our responsibility to recruit the volunteers which would include four Confirmation Candidates from the chapel.  Upon arrival at St. Peter’s, the crew is immediately put to work preparing sandwiches.  I make the soup.  At 7:30, a line of eager guests begins to pass by the counter where they are given hot bean soup, peanut butter and jelly and/or cheese sandwiches, donuts and coffee or tea.  They return over and over again.  For many, it’s the only food that they will have until Monday as Manna is closed on Sunday.  

It becomes a learning experience for our Confirmation candidates.  Not only is it a rewarding way to earn High School and Confirmation service hours but afterward Father Tom offers his wisdom, perspective and experience in working with the inner-city homeless population. 

Over the years the members of the chapel have generously provided amazing amounts of toiletries as well as socks, underwear, tee shirts, winter gloves, hats and scarves.  This inspired Jean to start purchasing and accepting items of clothing for distribution at the kitchen.  Summer shorts and tee shirts, winter jeans, hoodies, coats as well as, and always in demand, shoes, boots and belts.  We would arrive each month with our van chock full of these items and it was never enough.  We eventually realized that these folks had no place to launder their clothing much less a place to wash up!

As Jean was distributing clothing in a room sepárate from the kitchen and dining area, she found that there were additional rooms available and suitable for the installation of shower and laundry facilities.  The down side being that the building was old and that converting that space into a viable shower and laundry area would be costly and time consuming.  Eventually, a diverse group of people joined her and formed the Corner Shower and Laundry committee.  Due to their continued and tireless efforts over six years, the vulnerable population at Manna now have safe, adequate and accessible toilet, handwashing, shower and laundry facilities available.  

The Corner Shower and Laundry opened for use in January of 2020.  Unfortunately, with the onset of Covid19, the use of the facility has been severely limited.  The facility has four shower stalls and three washers and dryers.  However, due to social distancing, only one guest is allowed into the area at a time. 

The Covid19 restrictions have affected the kitchen as well.  Bag lunches consisting of sandwiches, an energy bar, a piece of fruit, a juice box and bottled water are filled by volunteers starting at 6:45am.  The lunches, along with hot coffee and tea, are distributed in the parking lot from 8 until 9am. Five volunteers are needed each morning wearing masks and gloves.  The guests wear masks and masks are available if anyone needs one.  

So, the needs continue at Manna Meal and at the Corner Shower and Laundry.  Volunteers are still needed every month.  Sack lunch items, toiletries, laundry soap, men’s and women’s underwear are in constant demand.  Funding the shower and laundry manager’s salary is another expense.  Monetary donations as well as any of the items listed above are gladly accepted and appreciated. 

Roger and Jean Bajorek

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