However, that’s the gargantuan task faced by Donald Ravizza, kitchen manager for Joy Junction homeless shelter. He recently took some time to tell me about a (well at least semi) typical day.
Don usually arrives at Joy Junction just before 5 a.m. and this day was no exception. He wondered what lay in store for the upcoming day.
He said, “As I parked my car, I wondered if I would have enough food to serve everyone. Before I entered the building, I checked the walk ins outside to see what kind of donations we received the previous night. There was a variety.”
Don said as he entered the building, it became apparent that we had yet again experienced God’s blessings. Firstly, there was enough bread to make it through yet another day.
Don said, “Next I checked the reach ins to see if we had gotten any meat donations. Again God had blessed us. Lots of meats, whole chickens, hamburger patties, even some steaks.”
Don added, “I usually vary from serving hot and cold cereal and pancakes during the week, to eggs, French toast, bacon or sausage (if we have any) on the weekends. Our residents get an extra hour to sleep in on the weekends, which gives my staff more time to do a nice hot breakfast.”
Don said the next question to think about was whether he would have enough staff for the day to get the job done. Wanting to give some of Joy Junction’s former guests an opportunity to build an employment resume, the shelter employs some of them in various departments. That can, however, sometimes be a challenge.
Don said, “This day I found out the cook needed to leave at 9 a.m. for a court date. And I’m not complaining, but we always seem to be shorthanded for one reason or another. Either a forgotten appointment, illness; it’s always something. We always get through the day somehow, though.”
Don said, “With breakfast out of the way, our focus was now on putting away the donations that came in last night. There was a lot of produce and meat. It didn’t take too long. Once that was done, we focused on snacks.”
He added, “We generally do a snack for the life recovery class at the half way point. It gives the residents a chance to stretch and have a cup of coffee and a pastry. We had a good assortment this day. Some days, it’s slim pickings, but our residents appreciate this all the same.”
With the snacks done, Don and his crew moved on to lunch. The menu was tacos, Spanish rice, beans, Mexican pastries and soda. That, he said, turned out to be a crowd pleaser.
Don said, “Prep for lunch went off without a hitch. Lunch was well received and our residents seemed to enjoy it.”
It was now time to think about dinner. Don combined tri tip roasts with rice pilaf, vegetable and bread.
Don was happy with the way his cook was grilling the steaks.
He said, “Doing it the way I asked. If you slightly undercook them, pan them, and place them in the warmer, they come out a perfect medium by service time. We decided on mashed potatoes for tonight, as we did rice last night. We were almost out of potatoes, but more typically come in from generous donors in the week.”
Don said, “We were able to get dinner on time, even though our crew was down two. It just meant we had to work a little bit harder. The thing that gets me through most days here is knowing that what we do is truly helping someone in need. I have been pretty blessed in my life, and truly enjoy what I do here.”
Don recalled a highlight of his work at Joy Junction was when one of our guests approached him a few weeks ago and said he had raised the food quality to that of a five star shelter.
As Don got ready to leave for the day he said, “Another one in the books. Everyone fed hopefully enjoyed it, and now I’m going to head home and get ready to do it all over again tomorrow.”