Service Goes Above and Beyond at This Nourish Babylon 'Restaurant'
On a recent Monday night, Patricia Street sat down at a linen-clothed dining table decorated with fresh flowers, china and silverware. She scanned the menu.
Moments later, she savored a bean appetizer, fettuccine Bolognese, garlic bread, tiramisu, fresh pineapple and watermelon.
“I’ll tell you, the meals are fabulous,” said Street, 66, of West Babylon. “This place is a godsend. The people, they’re very nice. They treat you with dignity.”
Street lives with her son in a car. These free Monday night dinners at Christ Episcopal Church amid the gleaming stately homes of Babylon are part of the Nourish Babylon ministry that began in June 2015.
Handled like a fine-dining restaurant, Nourish Babylon serves an average of 70 dinners each Monday, totaling about 3,600 meals per year, plus bagged sandwiches and fruit offered to go. Besides donations, they operate with the help of 60 volunteers from the congregation, the local community and beyond. Some volunteers come from as far as Port Washington, which is 32 miles away.
The volunteer teams alone - from the kitchen staff to the waiters, the greeters to the parking attendants - indicate this ministry is much more than a fancy soup kitchen.
“Now that we see this is a ministry for the volunteers also, we’re more mindful in how we do what we do, so that guests and volunteers alike feel loved and respected,” said Diane Gaidon, mission and outreach program coordinator. “We’ve realized we’re feeding their spirits too, and that was a part that was unpredicted.”
It’s also about the connections. Street found a part-time job through meeting someone at Nourish Babylon. When her car went kaput, someone else offered the use of a van.
There’s an evening prayer service, which guests requested, that begins about 30 minutes before mealtime. In winter, guests in need can also select coats, gloves and scarves from a clothing closet. Senior guests can qualify for free home repairs.
One retired social worker volunteers her skills. A neighbor, affectionately called Captain Roy, donates produce from his large garden all summer.
A professional executive chef plans the menus by seasonal availability and donations. The church’s organic garden provides tomatoes, peppers, string beans, herbs, eggplant and cucumbers.
At another recent dinner, guests supped on roasted tomato hummus on naan bread with a cucumber-carrot salad, followed by pork and vegetable stir-fry over herb-fried rice, and finished with yogurt bejeweled with fresh blueberries.
“It’s not a bunch of junk,” Street said. “I think it’s one of the best dinners there is. It’s just such a blessing.”