Boston Retiree Warms Hearts & Bellies Volunteering Weekly at Supper Program

Daily Point of Light # 7799 Apr 26, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Bill Duncan. Read his story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

For the past 15 years, Bill Duncan has been a steadfast presence at Boston Cares’ Friday Night Supper Program (FNSP). Each Friday, alongside his fellow volunteers, Bill ensures that around 100 guests, mostly from unhoused or low-income backgrounds, receive a hot and nutritious meal. He has logged well over 1,600 volunteer hours, translating to approximately 75,000 meals served.

Bill’s duties at FNSP are varied yet essential. From washing dishes to helping prep the kitchen and setting up dinner, he is a linchpin in the smooth operation of the program. Since 2013, Bill’s impact has magnified as he took on the role of volunteer leader. On top of taking attendance of volunteers and explaining tasks, he actively recruits and engages new volunteers, imparting his passion for service and community connection. Through his efforts, volunteers not only serve meals, but also become part of a larger mission to combat food insecurity and uplift those in need.

Beyond his volunteer hours, Bill has made in-kind donations to the program, provided maintenance for kitchen equipment and acted as a bridge between staff and volunteers.

Bill holds up a tray of desserts ready to be served during Boston Cares’ Friday Night Supper Program, which he has volunteered weekly for over 15 years. /Courtesy Bill Duncan

Tell us about your volunteer role with Boston Cares.

In 2009, I was looking for volunteer events and I noticed that the Friday Night Supper Program was always filling up. So, in April 2009, I signed up and volunteered for three Fridays that were open. And I’ve been going most Fridays since then.

At first, I was doing other jobs, but in 2011, the dishwasher left so I took on the dishes. It’s a job that not many other people really like to do, but I like the rhythm of it. I consider it kind of meditative. So, I’ve been primarily doing dishes. But I also do kitchen prep, helping with the set up and I’ve also started coffee service more recently.

What inspired you to get started with this initiative?

I wanted to get more out into the world, and I saw volunteering as a possible way of doing that. And so, I really started in Spring 2009 with Boston Cares, and I really liked it.

What is it about the mission behind FNSP that you believe in so much?

It’s feeding people. I consider that the floor of everything. Some of the clients we have are unhoused and some aren’t. Some are in a situation where they’re food insecure. And then there are people who I think come for the social aspect of the program. They’re talking together, and you see the same people sitting together every week. So, it’s not just the food. We’re providing different levels of things depending on what people need. We don’t do any sort of income check or check any person’s status or anything. Anybody is welcome to show up.

What are some other volunteer activities you’ve participated in?

During COVID, I had to drop out of FNSP for a while for safety reasons. When everything shut down in March 2020, I found a different opportunity through Boston Cares handing out school meals in the Boston School District. I’ve also been a Red Cross volunteer since 2013. The most recent disaster I helped at was a house fire. What we do for disaster services is Red Cross will assign the family a caseworker for about a month to help connect them with services so they can get reestablished. We collect their information to get the cases open and connect the clients with mental health services and stuff like that if they need it. We also provide them with some initial cash so they can address any immediate needs.

Bill pours a cup of coffee to be served to one of the guests during Boston Cares’ Friday Night Supper Program, which provides a nutritious meal to 100 guests weekly. /Courtesy Bill Duncan

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

For me personally, it’s just the social aspect. I’ve made a lot of friends in the program. We’ve done a lot of things outside of the program together, like camping. It’s kind of like a grounding point in my life. I just feel good about it.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

I learned just how much need there is out there and also how easy it is to fill a bit of it. It’s not like I’m giving a lot each week, but now that I’ve been doing this for a long time now, those hours have accumulated and seeing that is amazing.

Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about?

I just think it’s a good thing to give. When you give, you can see how much you actually have. And I don’t just mean materially. I didn’t think there was that much inside me to give out, but now I know there is.

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?

Just do it. Also, a lot of people will volunteer for the social component of it and the one thing they fail to do is to keep going back.

What do you want people to learn from your story?

That volunteering can be fun. It can really be a part of your life. It doesn’t have to consume your life, but it can be a really nice addition to it.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Bill? Find local volunteer opportunities.


Alicia Lee