“I have a soft spot for veterans,” said Beverly Heath, a seven-year volunteer for All Saints Church through their feeding ministry program.
Beverly stood in the kitchen of Veterans Inc. on Grove Street, with a tray of dinner rolls in her hand and an eye toward the clock, hoping to finish cooking for the needy veterans on time.
As a member of All Saints, 10 Irving St., Beverly takes great pride in her volunteer work. A retired administrative and marketing coordinator for the old Worcester-based company, Amgro Inc., and with more than 10 years of experience in people relations, she has been able to transition her professional know-how to the volunteer missions of the church, utilizing her skills for a higher purpose.
We laugh over the jokes of Jerry Lagueux and Larry Schuyler, two additional volunteers from the All Saints, as we discuss the mix of responsibilities for everyone in the kitchen.
Jerry is the veggie man, and Larry is the meat-and-potatoes guy. Although the volunteers are at Veterans Inc. to fill the void of a serious issue in America, the displacement of its veterans post-service, the atmosphere they create through their compassion, speak volumes and help lighten the atmosphere.
“I volunteer because I have retired veterans in my family and group of friends. I lost a friend after the Vietnam War to suicide and this is my way of giving back,” said Larry, who retired after 42 years at National Grid as a senior designer for the engineer department.
Speaking in depth about Larry’s friend was a sore subject. It was a reminder of bad memories and sadder days. Larry’s friend committed suicide at the young age of 24 after serving in the Vietnam War. Larry glances downward, in a moment of silence, and quickly changes the conversation.
“I also volunteer for other organizations in Worcester. Aside from volunteering at the All Saints Church with the feed-the-ministry program, I also volunteer through the Martin Luther King program through Quinsigamond Community College and through the Boy Scouts of Worcester,” Larry said. “At the Martin Luther King program, I help with the preparation of breakfasts for their members and I also am part of their scholarship committee, giving high school students scholarships for higher education.”
Larry is helping the community in a wide range of aspects. He says that he is unable to remain unproductive. He stays busy through all of his volunteer work and wants to generate impact and a sense of purpose with his available time. Larry has volunteered with All Saints for more than eight years.
As food preparation is finally complete, and the cooking phase begins to transition into the serving phase, Jerry begins to push large trays of mashed potatoes, roasted chicken, green beans, gravy and dinner rolls into the serving aisles. The food is enough to feed an estimated 100 veterans, an average turnout for the monthly dinner program All Saints provides at Veterans Inc.
All Saints volunteers also feed dozens of homeless and addicts in recovery at Jeremiah’s Inn in Webster Square once a month, along with several other service and outreach programs that include raising funds to help provide housing and various support groups.
“On slow days, we have enough food for veterans to enjoy a second serving,” says Larry as he prepares the plates and serving station utensils.
Larry is a veteran himself. Serving nine years in the Army’s 181st Infantry division during the ’60s, Larry has a deep connection with the services offered to the veterans. “This is my way of giving back to the veterans that give so much to us,” he says. It is hard to find people with this kind of devotion. Seeing Larry prepare the food and speak with the passing veterans of the program, it could make one wonder if they are doing all that they can for their community.
Part of the church choir at All Saints for 25 years, Larry has a background in the church services, the community and outreach programs. Prior to the closing of the First Baptist Church in Worcester, he served in the choir for 35 years and was the director of music for the Spanish ministry. Now, Larry spends every third Thursday of the month feeding the veterans and giving back the best way he knows how.
“I am part of the Greendale Retired Men’s Club. I manage their monthly newsletters and we volunteer our services on a wide range of matters. Every week, we visit an elderly service home and sing for the residents,” Jerry says.
The All Saints Church is a staple of the city of Worcester and its diverse and urban culture. The congregation’s efforts to positively impact the community in which house three of their churches, stretch beyond the feed the ministry program. They also implement a hope for housing program, a program designed to help prevent homelessness with small grants for families in need, and the afternoon tunes program, an initiative to help spark creativity within the community by providing free 30-minute musical lessons to children.
After speaking with the volunteers of All Saints and speaking with the Davis family as they directly served the veterans, I spoke with an anonymous veteran about the impact of the church.
“Most vets complain about the lack of services given from the state for local veteran assistance, but I am grateful that we have volunteers, like the church, who come in and serve us a hot, homemade and delicious meal. I have been at other Veteran shelters and this is one of the better ones due to the help of the staff and the help of community organizations. The church is here one Thursday a month, and every other Friday we receive pizza from a local mom-and-pop pizzeria. I am grateful for their services,” he says as he begins to enjoy his home-cooked meal.
A veteran of the Marines who says he served during the Vietnam War Era, the Worcester native endured hard financial times and sought help through the Veterans program, where he has been able to get back on his feet.
He explained how grateful he felt through the opportunities given by the volunteers and wanted to say thank you to them for remembering those that need a little help from time to time.
This article was originally published in the Sept. 20, 2015 edition of the Sun.
Purchase a Worcester Sun membership for as low as $2.