Doreen Holmes, Volunteer Coordinator of St. Patrick’s Soup Kitchen, is one of its most prominent supporters. Ms. Holmes works tirelessly, spending every Monday at the Soup Kitchen to ensure that a critical need in the lives of so many is met, at least one night a week.
Homelessness and poverty are very real problems in Providence, Rhode Island. This city of 160,000 residents has the highest percentage of families below the poverty line in the state (29.2%), the highest proportion of children living in poverty (34.5%), and in the second lowest median income level in the state ($22,147). St. Patrick’s mission is to provide hot food, clothing when possible and spiritual encouragement to those in need. Ms. Holmes ensures that this mission is carried out.
She also directs guests needing additional assistance to Mary House, the Soup Kitchen’s parent organization, for emergency food; and to agencies that can provide temporary shelter, job counseling and other services necessary to those on the road back to self-sufficiency.
Regardless of the guest’s circumstances, Ms. Holmes connects with every person that visits the Soup Kitchen. Sometimes it may be a smile or a kind word; other times she may give a hug or a touch on the shoulder. Ms. Holmes is following in the footsteps of her mentor and Soup Kitchen founder, Sister Fran Conway, and she subscribes to a simple philosophy – all human beings deserve to be treated with compassion and dignity.
Individuals from all across the state volunteer at St. Patrick’s. In fact, Ms. Holmes has established service-learning partnerships with several universities, colleges and local high schools. On any given Monday, 20-30 students along with several longtime volunteers help serve the guests. Ms. Holmes leads them through an orientation and makes sure that everyone is given a specific job.
Ms. Holmes involvement has spanned 13 of the 17 years that the Soup Kitchen has been operating. She hopes that one day there will no longer be people who are hungry, but until then, everyone that visits St. Patrick’s will get a healthy meal and a wholesome dose of respect from Ms. Holmes and the volunteers she guides.
Ms. Holmes has played a strategic part in the effectiveness of the Soup Kitchen. The partnerships she has established have allowed her to take advantage of an enormous body of potential volunteers and even convince local colleges to provide much needed resources to the organization. Her influence has left an indelible mark on St. Patrick’s and her concern for the guests’ well being is evident.
Ms. Holmes walks around with a green notebook in one hand and a pen in the other. While greeting all the clients, you may see her writing in the book. This book records the sizes of clothing someone needs the fact that another client may need to find a place to stay or that someone needs money for diapers, food etc. Holmes not only writes in the book, but she then follows up and goes “an extra mile” to help alleviate whatever concern she has noted about that particular client.