Everyone has a story.

#MyGivingStory begins with me being 51, and I wake up every day with gratitude for my life, my friends, my health, and for my three children and their health and happiness.

The Fern you meet is happy and busy.  But what you don’t see when you meet me is that I became a widow at 42, left to raise one girl and two boys without a husband and their father. It was dark, exhausting and terrifying.  In the past nine years, I learned a lot about myself. I grew to be independent – a me versus a we. I was both mom and dad to my kids.  And somehow with the graciousness of time, my heart went from grief to gratitude.  My story shows, you just never know what people have gone through.

When I started volunteering at Trinity Cafe in early 2017, I learned quickly that we don’t just feed the homeless. In addition to those on the streets, we feed the working poor, we feed those with a roof over their heads but barely keeping the lights on. We feed the hungry.  And every single guest who walks through the doors at Trinity Cafe has his or her own story.

I believe we are all equal.  We all bleed red, we all come in to this world the same way and eventually we all go out.  I look around our dining room and I see someone’s son, niece, mother. I’ve met the educated, a concert pianist and some great storytellers. I’ve met some that can’t or won’t speak. I see those who have fallen on rough times and are just getting by. I see addiction and mental illness. I see adorable children, some old enough to be in school but are not.  Each and every one has a story that deserves to be heard and deserves the human touch that we give along with the meals we serve.

This year, in addition to my regular lunch detail duties, I have held the role of Volunteer Coordinator, organizing and leading the team that works the day’s meal service.  Whether I am loading the dishwasher, serving plates or acting as the day’s Coordinator, I enjoy the personal connections and smiles, the “Hey, Ms. Fern!” yelled across the room, seeing the meals eaten, and observing fellow volunteers making a difference in someone’s day. I always say that we feed their hungry stomachs but we also, and equally importantly, feed whatever else is bringing them in our doors, with dignity and humanity.

The mission of Trinity Cafe says it all:  to restore a sense of dignity to the homeless & hungry while serving a nutritious meal. We faithfully treat all of God’s children with acceptance, compassion, love, and respect.

It all started out with my giving my time. As Volunteer Coordinator, I offer my talents. And as a Provision Partner, my treasure goes to Trinity Cafe. What is #MyGivingStory? I’m all in, with Trinity Cafe.