When The Ritterbusch Group’s Aileen Smith moved into her home in Wauwatosa in 1993, the family she bought the house from mentioned the front porch was a drop-off and pick-up spot for the St. Ben’s Community Meal program. The family asked if she would consider continuing to lend the porch to the cause. Wanting to be a good new neighbor, she said yes.
Twenty-three years later, her front porch is still the drop-off/pick up spot, and she’s since taken on the role of coordinator for the West Side Neighbors. The group is one of the original contributors to the Community Meal, involved since the early 1970s.
St. Ben’s is known in Metro Milwaukee to be a place to get a free hot meal; the operation feeds 200-600 people six nights a week at their hall on 9th & State in Milwaukee. The Community Meal was created with a simple mission: to feed the hungry. About 80 groups bring food to St. Ben’s each month. Smith’s group, which numbers about 25 and still has some founding members, handles the third Sunday, and shows up with a meal consisting of mostaccioli and meat sauce, canned vegetables, fresh fruit and salad. It’s the same meal they’ve been serving since they started.
“This is the easiest volunteer activity I participate in,” says Smith. “No meetings, no fundraising. All we do is make food, bring it to St. Ben’s, and feed the people who show up on the third Sunday. On the months I stay to help serve I see how the Community Meal fulfills basic needs: nutrition and eating a meal with others around a table. The people who gather aren’t asked any questions, and are welcomed with respect. It’s uncomplicated, and at the same time important. I’m happy to be involved.”