I am a Nashville native and lived most of my early years in Donelson. As an adult, I moved to West Nashville for work and have been there "forever"!
Growing up, for me, was pretty good. I never really had much exposure to homelessness until several years ago, while working at Ford Glass Plant. A coworker asked me to help fix food once a month for the homeless at 42nd Avenue United Methodist Church. We did that until my friend retired. When he did, that ended my involvement with 42nd Avenue.
After that, I made some friends at Christ Presbyterian Church; we took coats to the homeless at Tent City. That's been a while, too, though.
When I retired from Ford about 10 years ago, I knew that I wanted to get back involved with helping the homeless, but I didn't know how. I looked around a little, but nothing seemed right.
Then, I told myself, "Jackie, you're Catholic. Why not look at your own church to help?" That's when I learned about Catholic Charities and Loaves and Fishes.
I called Wendy Overlock and told her I wanted to volunteer. "How often?" she asked. "Every Wednesday," I said. I was assigned to the dining room and immediately fell in love with it...and the people.
My primary duty - self-assigned - is ticket distribution. (Everyone must have a ticket to be served. That helps Wendy and her team keep track of how many meals are actually being served each day.)
Usually, I arrive around 10:00 a.m. Each day, the meal ticket has a different color, so first I take off the old stickers and put on that day's color.
I get to greet everyone who arrives. In fact, I stay near the door for the entire meal, so that everyone is warmly welcomed.
Guests and I chit chat and, for those who want or need it, I give out hugs, too. (An early lesson I learned is that not everyone wants a hug; not everyone wants to be touched. And that's OK.)
Honestly, I look at each of us as brothers and sisters. I don't see "different" when our guests arrive or when we visit during a meal. We all have the same Father. That's how I look at it.
On Wednesday, when I am there, I help sweep and mop the floors after our guests leave, to get the center ready for the next time. (That's actually my "labor" part of the day. Welcoming guests to Loaves and Fishes is NOT work...it's a joy!)
Why do I do this every Wednesday? I don't know for sure. Some tell me that I just have a giving heart.
I don't know if that is true or not, but I do know that I've got love that I've got to give out.
Others have referred to what I do as a ministry. I'm not sure about that either. I just know that being with the folks at Loaves and Fishes each Wednesday is what I was put here to do.
I want them to see Jesus in me and simply offer what I think of as "pure love" to them. Isn't that what Jesus is...pure love?
I couldn't make it through the week without being there.
Loaves and Fishes serves from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. For more information, e-mail LoavesandFishes@cctenn.org or call 615-256-7256.