The women’s team volunteers in Salinas
The morning of March 3rd was falling with a cool mist from the Monterey fog as our teammates drove to Chinatown, Salinas. Pulling onto the street, tents covered in blue tarps lined the streets because rain was blessing the Salinas farmland the previous nights. Life starts early in the short street of Chinatown as the locals were awake and chipper. Dorothy’s Place is located on the infamous Salinas street and provides Dorothy’s Kitchen, Drop-in Center, House of Peace (transitional housing), Women Alive! (overnight women’s shelter), Health Center, and St. Clare’s Center. Dorothy’s Place started in 1982 and is still run by Franciscan Workers of Junipero Serra. They have served two million meals in thirty-three years.
We attempted to open the door of Dorothy’s Place only to be told by the locals that it was locked and the wrong door. One man pointed just a few feet down the street towards the correct door and another local firmly knocked on the door for us. A young gentleman who was cooking food for Dorothy’s Kitchen opened the door and welcomed us in, quickly shutting the door behind us. We filed into the small dining area with the colorful collaged ceiling made by various volunteer groups.
John Newkirk, a tall man, and one of the primary chefs welcomed us and asked us first word impressions to coming to Chinatown and seeing men and women living in tents on the street. We discussed how we must become grateful for the most simple things. He then teased us about rugby traditions and explained that his wife was involved with rugby; he knew how women rugby players could be: strong, independent, a little nutty, and proud. He gave us a tour of Dorothy’s Place quickly, being sure that all of us filed together into the surprisingly small kitchen, pantry, and beautifully gardened back area. He explained that their kitchen was named one of the cleanest kitchens in the County.
Dorothy’s Place is small enough (yet mighty) that we flooded the organization with hands. John gave us different jobs: cleaning the dishes with water flying, drying with sopping towels, serving coffee with a unique mug, scooping food with a strong arm, serving food with an outstretched hand, and greeting guests with a warm smile; there were more than enough of us for each task.
As the few hours swiftly passed by, we thanked John and other volunteers for their support and graciousness for teaching us the ropes of Dorothy’s Kitchen. We walked out into the now sunny and comfortably heartwarming early afternoons that Salinas holds for its locals. We drove home safely and remembered our first morning at Dorothy’s Kitchen, sincerely hoping to be more involved in the future.