Volunteers' souls are served at Jubilee Kitchen in Pittsburgh

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Karen Joseph held the spoon that scooped about 16 gallons of beef macaroni onto plates at the Jubilee Kitchen, Uptown, for the lunch rush on Wednesday.

The demand was nothing unusual. Jubilee Kitchen provides free meals to 150 to 200 needy people each day. But Ms. Joseph usually reports to work at CA Technologies in North Fayette.

CA Technologies gives its employees three paid days a year to volunteer and they can chose from a number of opportunities, said Jessica Schriner, an administrative assistant.

"A group is going to work with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy next week to clean up planted areas," she said. "You get to know more about the city doing things like this."

At 9 a.m., as clients served themselves coffee and doughnuts, workers in white T-shirts imprinted with the CA Technologies logo cut bananas, apples and oranges into segments for fruit salad.

Tom Jenkins stood beside the sink, washing and cutting tomatoes for the garden salad. His regular job is in customer service but he has experience with produce and kitchen knives.

"My wife has me trained," he said with a chuckle. On his last volunteer day, he said, he worked on a beautification effort near the Liberty Tunnels, "pulling weeds, spreading mulch. I didn't feel like I was contributing much. When this opportunity came up, I said, 'Yeah, that's something I'd like.' "

While Mr. Jenkins worked on the tomatoes, Butch Usher, a Jubilee Kitchen employee of 17 years, stood at a stove behind the counter in the main room stirring macaroni in a pot that's big enough to hold two basketballs with the lid on.

Jubilee Kitchen has a few people on staff and depends on volunteers. It has regular crews who volunteer on various days and sometimes people just pop in.

The prep kitchen was busy when Katie Smith, a student at the Community College of Allegheny County, bounced through the door smiling sweetly. "I'm here to volunteer," she said.

"Anybody looking for something to do?" asked Jack Craig, a Wednesday volunteer for the last 15 years with his wife, Carolyn. Soon, Ms. Smith was standing on a chair wiping items on a shelf with a dish rag that had been soaked in bleach water.

The Craigs started a Wednesday gig at Jubilee Kitchen in retirement. They had met a woman at their church who was a Wednesday volunteer. They accompanied her one day and never stopped going.

By 11 a.m., the volunteers had lined up in the serving area, each holding a large spoon as old men, young men, old women, young women, a few with children, and a few college students lined up to have their plates filled.

Ms. Joseph said she imagined herself being in line for a plate. "People need to know about this," she said, adding. "Thank goodness this place is here."


Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk.


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