By Alex Cordero
Several members from Pasadena’s Neighborhood Church have been serving warm meals through Union Station’s adopt-a-meal program since 1992. During their most recent meal time Union Station recognized the group and presented them with an appreciation award for their years of consistent commitment and participation in the adopt-a-meal program. The group has been serving kindness alongside the hot meals they give those in need in their community. And their commitment to the tradition was captured during this month’s meal serving.
“No matter how stressful a day I’m having this event turns my day around,” shared Ann Grant, a nurse and teacher who has been volunteering at this event for the last five years.
She also shared with me how going to Union Station and serving meals helps her keep certain aspects about her life in perspective.
Jane Conner, who is also a nurse, serves as chair of the Neighborhood Church group and has been serving warm meals at Union Station for years. Conner shared with me that there are many other local organizations that are part of the adopt-a-meal program and that everyday everyone has a designated turn to serve.
Because Neighborhood Church is the longest serving participant of all the organizations involved in the program, they have earned their reservation in Union Station’s kitchen for the second Monday of every month.
I had the pleasure of meeting the whole group, including Janet Capanna who is one of the members that has been serving hot meals at Union Station since Neighborhood Church first began to organize the event.
She recalls a flyer being passed around at church encouraging members to participate. “It just hit me because we started this time of year and my New Year’s resolution was to figure out what I can do about homelessness.”
Capanna remembers a time when rules about participating were different and children were allowed in the kitchen and serving meals at Union Station was an activity she did with her family.
“The group began with 20 people. Mostly everyone participates; we have less people that do not participate but everyone has a job and we all rotate responsibilities. We use to have someone call everyone to relay what you were in charge of bringing but now everything is done through email and life is a lot easier.”
Capanna has been doing this long enough to share some great experiences. The one she decided to share was a time when a couple, who was living at Union Station at the time, tied the knot and the cake the group was serving that evening turned out to be the newlyweds’ wedding cake.
When the bride shared with Capanna that it was her wedding day, Capanna and the group soon found themselves joining the celebration. That evening they served cake in honor of the married couple and took photographs.
The group also includes Scott and Leslie Gaudineer — Pasadena residents who will be approaching their 40th wedding anniversary — who have been spending a Monday evening every month serving meals together for approximately six years. Leslie joined the group first in 2009 and then Scott joined her a few years later.
I approached the couple as they prepared mashed potatoes together to ask about Leslie’s reaction when she first learned her husband wanted to join her for Monday evenings at Union Station. “I thought it was great he was interested and it worked out fine. We all have our set routines and it has been all good.” Scott is mostly responsible for what he designates as “the heavy lifting” and shared that he enjoys serving meals at Union Station.
Another member of the group who introduced herself as Elizabeth has been volunteering at Union Station since 2006. “Being part of this event allows me to have a personal connection with the homeless issue in the community. It helps me gain perspective, learn about how we can prevent homelessness and develops the advocacy surrounding homelessness.”
Through the adopt-a-meal program at Union Station this group comes together every month to share a sense of community with their neighbors in need. The program at times may be uplifting to the person on the receiving end of a hot meal and vice versa. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit Neighborhood Church or Union Station.