Florence’s mission reopens its dining room after a year of closure
The Mary Rose Mission in Florence reopened its dining room earlier this month after it closed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the Catholic charity continued its mission of serving hungry and food insecure people throughout the pandemic, it has had to shut down gatherings in person.
Now the guests are back.
“In mid-March of last year, we had to close our dining room because the governor said everyone had to close,” said Cindy Carris, executive director of Mary Rose. “But we’ve just moved to a drive-thru / take-out type of service for our employees.”
The mission fell to a chef and cut back on volunteers so that social distancing could be maintained.
For a full year, volunteers provided a starter, bread, bag of crisps and dessert to those who showed up. Carris said the mission also provided milk and then added water because public fountains were closed and people needed it as well.
“We just didn’t make the connection,” Carris said of some people’s reliance on public water. “Once they said something, we realized that they needed water, because they couldn’t find it anywhere else. As this Covid is such a new experience, we tried to think of everything, and we didn’t think of the water. “
Carris said some of their volunteers and managers are at risk due to cancer or a medical problem, and she knew they couldn’t risk being on the front lines. When it all started to close, people started asking if the Mary Rose Mission would be closing, but were told that the daily meals would continue.
About 95 to 115 meals were served each day.
“Over the year we noticed that when the stimulus checks came out we had fewer people here, the numbers dropped,” she explained. “But nobody really wants to depend on handouts. Very quickly, the numbers returned to normal, because many people do not have enough money to do their shopping, or they are homeless and have no place. to do their shopping. “
But the mission missed its in-person dinner where the guests would be like family, seeing the same faces every night.
“There is also a poverty of isolation,” Carris said. “For groups of people, it’s a night out. There is an elderly center across the street where people are on social security, and they come down here to have a meal and socialize with other people.”
The purpose of the mission is to treat everyone like Christ and to be Christ’s servants to help people. No one is ever turned down and everyone is treated with love and dignity.
Carris said most of the volunteers have returned, but they need more than one volunteer every day, including holidays. People can register to volunteer on the website, or they can call the mission at 859-292-0300 and talk to Suzi Poat, who is in charge of volunteers.
“For the most part, people are delighted that we are opening the dining room again,” she said. “We heard from some of the older people who only know us as a drive-thru, and they weren’t sure if it would be good to be inside.
“We told them, oh, we’re so much more fun on the inside!”
Carris said that over the years she has come to realize that there are people who slip through the cracks, people who become virtually invisible. At the mission, she knows that everyone is treated as if they are someone, as if they matter and that they are not invisible.
“Before each meal, we used to gather the volunteers together and say a prayer so that we could be the hands of Christ, the feet of Christ and the smile of Christ,” Carris said. “But then the people that were lined up outside heard us and asked if they could pray with us, so now we’re praying with everyone involved, all together. It’s beautiful.”
She said you learn to look at people in a new light, understanding that everyone matters, everyone is looking for that little smile, that little encouragement, and sometimes it can make a difference in their day.
“We are so motivated and know this is an essential mission,” said Carris. “All along, when we’ve had trouble, God is just leading the way for us.”
-Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN collaborator