"Jesus said to Peter, 'Feed my sheep.''' John 21:17B
On Sunday October 1st, a dedicated group of volunteers gathered at the pavilion at the Doyle Center to meet the demand for their renowned free hamburgers. After preparing the burgers in Tucker Hall, the “cookout” commences just a few blocks away from St. Peter’s in the historic Doyle neighborhood. With a level of efficiency that would impress any restaurant, the volunteers worked seamlessly to accommodate the growing line of cars on Webster Avenue.
“These are good burgers,” Ross Rommel, pitmaster, shared. “These are not small burgers. Rather, each patty weighs around six ounces.”
This sentiment was echoed by one of the recipients who enjoyed his meal on a bench near the grill. “10 out of 10!” he shared with a smile.
Ross also recalled a memorable Sunday a few months back, when “some of the youngsters walked up to receive burgers. Sights like these are the dividends that our crew members receive from their involvement in the program.”
At any given time, the pick-up line extended to as many as nine cars long, but no one waited for long, thanks to the resourcefulness of the volunteers. Mark Haufler implemented a clever system using sticky notes on each vehicle, which allowed the servers to quickly determine the precise number of burgers required for each car.
Some pick up for multi generational families, with requests for even over ten meals. Others in line may be families or individuals picking up meals that will get them through the week. Embodying the spirit of Christ, this ministry provides a truly judgment free meal. The number of meals requested equals the number provided, no questions asked, until the last burger is served.
On that particular Sunday, the team was lucky enough to have a full group of volunteers to manage the demand. According to Mickey Horany, the lowest number of volunteers that has run the event has been "probably around 4-5." He added, "having the entire team present really streamlines the process."
Typically, they serve around 140 - 150 meals. As was the case on Sunday, October 1st, they often run out. On the rare occasion when there are leftovers, the burgers are generously delivered to local fire stations, EMS crews, teachers, or even to our very appreciative youth group.
It’s hard to believe, but this program is approaching the end of their 3rd year. While there is a regular crew that shows up every time, this ministry is always seeking new volunteers. Ross shared one of his concerns for the future of the ministry. “Most of our crew members are in their mid to high 70s, and frankly, serving burgers in 105 degree heat, like this past summer, is getting a little challenging.”
The ministry has set a goal to enlist more volunteers, particularly from among the younger parishioners. This could potentially establish a rotation between two crews, providing each other with much needed breaks, or perhaps even increasing the frequency of meal offerings.
This program incurs no cost to the parish, as the burgers, vegetables, and other supplies are generously funded by the crew members themselves.
Whether or not you are ready to get involved, if you haven’t witnessed the Hamburger Ministry in action, consider this your invitation to check it out. It guarantees not only a good time, thanks to Mickey Horany's dance moves and the delicious lunch but also an opportunity to join in the camaraderie of the crew and witness the heartfelt smiles of those receiving a warm meal.