Ranger Kathryn's Arches

December 26, 2011

Community Christmas Meal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:54 am
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Hundreds of plates stand ready

2 pm Christmas Day: the lined ambled forward at a steady pace as savory aromas wafted out the door into the hallway. People from every walk of life, all ages and socioeconomic strata, mingled and chatted amiably. It was yet another event showcasing the generous and compassionate hearts of Utahans.

Eight times a year the town rallies to put on a free feast. For Christmas, the wonderful folks at Red Cliffs Lodge donate and prepare all the food (last year 375 meals) for a meal for anybody who cares to come. Turkey, ham, roast beef, salmon, mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce, rolls, pie, cake, ice cream — I got a full feeling just looking at the abundance before me. An army of volunteers in Santa hats dished up the plates, bussed the tables, and washed dishes. This is Moab at its finest, in my estimation.

"Yam lady" made me smile

After partaking of the sumptuous feast, it was my turn to help out. They needed drivers to take meals to the homebound elderly who had requested this, and I knew that would be just the ticket to keep me from sinking into the morass of self-pity on a traditional family-oriented day. Off I went with my Google map of Moab  and take-out boxes which I’d filled.

If you’ve not had a chance to spend a few minutes with old folks lately, drop what you’re doing and arrange this. In my park ranger job, the elderly are under-represented among our visitors. I miss them. Their sweet smiles and heartfelt gratitude for the simple meals I carried chased away the Loneliness Blues. I drove back to my home on the mesa top with a lighter heart and a deeper resolve to find more ways to serve others.

June 2, 2010

Moab Free Meal: what a brilliant idea!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:32 pm
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Crockpots line the table after the Moab Free Meal

It’s noon, and an assortment of people from every walk of life begins to converge on a small grassy park-like space near downtown Moab. They trickle in on foot, by bicycle, or in cars. They carry entire backpacks with all their life belongings, or nothing at all. They range from young adults to retired folks; all are waiting for the Moab Free Meal to appear.

Nearly three years ago, a broke and hungry young man moved to Moab and had a vision for feeding people using restaurants’ leftovers. An organization called “Food Not Bombs” had inspired him in his previous city. He began soliciting donated food, which he kept in coolers at his place until it got used, which I believe was once or twice weekly at first. Word got around. Little by little the momentum grew, and food that would have been thrown away was redirected toward the Moab Free Meal. The idea caught on and gained widespread local support. It is now a daily meal, for anyone in the entire town, and completely free.

Attendees arrive by various conveyances

Now, every day of the year, at noon-ish or after, volunteers pull up and set up the two folding tables, crockpots and several 5-gallon buckets of bowls and utensils. Patrons gladly pitch in to help with the set-up, which proceeds in a well-rehearsed fashion. Clean bowls (no disposables!) come out of two buckets at the beginning; hot food beckons on the next low tables; and condiments and utensils await the hungry lunchers at the end. Today, for example, we had delicious leftover vegetarian pizza, a sweet potato casserole, and potato-and-meat-stew. Soda is available for those who want it, as are wrapped dessert treats. Nobody goes away hungry.

Every cross-section of life is represented. On any given day, there might be six to forty people at this meal; today there were about twenty. I sat under a shade tree with an artist/massage therapist, an engineer/river guide, a musician, a radiologist, another park ranger, and a fascinating man named Daniel [zerocurrency.blogspot.com] who has utterly eschewed monetary currency for nearly a decade. (I dare you to try to imagine freeing your life from money in any form. Mind-boggling.)

I think this should be called the Networking Tree

All it took is one man with a vision. This meal is a win-win for everyone involved; it saves countless buckets of food from being thrown away, feeds hungry stomachs, and creates fabulous opportunities for networking among attendees under the shade trees. I exchanged phone numbers with a few individuals whose skills/talents/abilities/connections may be useful, like the man who may be able to help me find a free bike to acquire and fix up, or someone who has connections with Grand Canyon river raft trips. I’d never have met them without the Moab Free Meal.

Every city could do this!

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Addendum: sometime in 2011, MFM foundered; I presume it was because of insufficient volunteer labor. It was for a time resurrected in some other iteration but does not look like what’s described in the above article. Check at the Moab Information Center (Main St & Center) if you come to town and are looking for this.

Dirty bowls go back into the 5-gallon buckets

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