A Dinner to Remember

Cap apartments kitchen

Author: Br. Jerry Smith

Some years ago the St Ben’s Meal Program (now Capuchin Community Services) partnered with Heartland Alliance to construct a new apartment building with over thirty units of affordable housing for especially vulnerable members of our community. Were it not for the “Capuchin Apartments” as the building was officially named, many of the current residents would undoubtedly be homeless.

Since the beginning, St Ben’s has organized different groups from throughout the community to provide a monthly meal for any of the residents wanting to gather and eat in the building’s common room. The most recent sponsor was a Boy Scout troop from the city, who arrived with approximately ten members and four leaders.

The scouts laughed as they recalled funny moments from their experiences the evening before as they had prepared the chicken and rice casserole, fruit salad, vegetables and cobbler. They asked if it would be OK if they individually served the guests at the table rather than having them file through a cafeteria line. Absolutely! They proceeded to do so, utilizing “real” dishes, since we had all forgotten to bring disposables. When finally all the guests had been served, the young men filled plates for themselves and sat down to ate with the residents.

Just as they were finishing, however, the electricity went out—and didn’t come back on. Fortunately, it was still daylight so we could see; however, the dishwasher obviously would not work. The apartment manager suggested we simply rinse the dishes and stack them; she would run the washer when the electricity came back on. However, one of the leaders said, “These are Boy Scouts. They are perfectly capable of washing these dishes by hand.”

There was another problem, though—nowhere could we find even a drop of dishwashing liquid. Remembering that a supermarket had opened just weeks ago only blocks away, I “borrowed” a couple of scouts, drove to the store and dispatched the young men to go inside and find dish detergent. They were back at the car in a minute, though--empty-handed. The electrical outage was apparently wide-spread, and the store was closed.

We drove another fifteen blocks and found a little corner market which was indeed open and indeed carried dish detergent.  Mission accomplished, we returned to the apartment building, where the other scouts had been wondering why we were so delayed.

The young men worked diligently, and in no time had the dishes washed, dried and placed back in the storage cabinet. As the dishwater was being drained from the sink, however, suddenly it gushed forth from a rupture in the drain pipe. A frantic search for a mop was finally successful, and the last task of the evening involved sopping up the gallons of water spread over the entire kitchen floor.

And guess what? Just as we had finished mopping the floor and were packing up to leave—the lights came on! The electricity had been restored.