Two blocks north of Brighton and Harvard Avenue, people are waiting in line for the Holy Resurrection Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Allston to open their doors for the Monday community dinner founded 24 years ago. Since 1988, the Open Door Ministry has been providing dinner every Monday at 6 p.m. for people who either do not have a kitchen or are on a limited food budget. At the beginning of each meal, all guests are asked to rise for the “Our Father” and a short prayer. The ministry’s mission is to provide a warm community meal in a safe space for guests to eat and socialize.
Membership has grown steadily over the past three decades to a group of 65 to 75 patrons weekly. Members dine on a variety of warm dishes prepared with fresh, locally grown food including sliced beef, beef chili, poultry, homemade chicken soup, fresh tossed salads, bread and pastry, hot and cold beverages and fresh fruit in season.
According to the church web page, the membership base is three-quarters men, with an ever growing number of women (approximately 18 to 25 percent). Some of the members are homeless. Children rarely come to the Monday dinner. There is an increasing number of Hispanic immigrants, mostly non-English speaking. Some of the Hispanic members bring their children. There is also a small group of community people from Allston-Brighton, Brookline and Cambridge that come weekly.
Dan, a meals program member who has been coming for a few years, said, “I am very fond of the Monday community dinner because of the good selection of food. There is also a good variety.” Helen, another member, commented,”The Monday dinner program provides a good selection of food and is always warm. The food pantry food helps me fill my refrigerator.”
The Monday dinner gets around 18 to 22 volunteers weekly from churches and the local community. The two largest core volunteer groups include Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church members and community volunteers. The church members group consists of seven or eight people who volunteer each week. Other churches, including St. Mary’s Orthodox Church in Cambridge and St. Mark’s Coptic Church in Natick, also help out. The community volunteers group consists of seven or eight people who volunteer weekly on a regular basis. The church and community volunteers work as waiters who serve the members soup, beverages, dessert and the meal. The third group consists of a few college students from local colleges, such as Holy Cross and Boston University, who work as waiters and help clean up the chapel hall after the meal.
In addition to Will Raiman, the Monday Community Meals Program supervisor, there are also two or three associated clergy that help assist each week.
Deacon Tudor remarked,”I like working at the meals program because it feels very real. You are working with the reality of helping people and the community.” David, a member of the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church, said,”I like working at the meals program because you are helping people and the community. Helping people is very rewarding.” Will Raiman said, “The Monday dinner provides a safe and relaxing place for people to enjoy a community meal. We do not tolerate alcohol and violence in our community space and welcome all to come.”
Raiman pointed out that the Monday community dinner has a staff of seven cooks. These cooks prepare the dinner on a rotating basis. He mentioned that each of the cooks has a specialty, such as shepherd’s pie, which they prepare regularly. ”Our staff of cooks are members of the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church. The cooks are a group of church women who enjoy cooking and serving people.”
According to the church web page, the Open Door Ministry distributes small bags of non- perishable groceries at the end of each meal. The food bags come from St. Bridget’s Food Pantry. Food is supplied by donations and contributions from local businesses. Raiman mentioned that the Open Door Ministry has begun to supplement the food bags with fresh produce and seasonal fruit. “We are now getting donations of day-old leftover fruit and produce and canned foods from the local Trader Joe ‘s and Whole Foods.” Raiman also acknowledged that the ministry is getting local fruit and produce in season from a farmer in Western Massachusetts. “He has been supplying us with local apples, bell peppers and tomatoes. He has also been getting donations from other farmers.”
Raiman highlighted that Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church parishioners have been supporting the work of the Open Door Ministry through funding program materials and by making the chapel hall available for the Monday community dinner. ”The Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church is not a wealthy church, but they are very much concerned about hunger and the community.”
Raiman invites people to come to their Christmas Eve holiday dinner on Monday, December 22. Doors will open at the regular time, 6 p.m., and sliced turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy will be served.