When Help Is Extra Special: Students Serve Meals and Learn that Giving is Receiving


Pictured l-r: May school staff Walter Snow, student Nicholas, staff members of Father Bill's & MainSpring, and students Angelo, Joel, and Declan.

On Fridays, students from the May Center School for Brain Injury and Related Disabilities in Brockton, Mass., happily pile into a van for the short ride to Father Bill's & MainSpring. There, over the course of three hours, they clean tables, replenish condiments, and bring hot meals to the nearly 200 guests who dine at The Table, the organization's community lunch program. To locals, it's the soup kitchen.

"I really enjoy seeing our students show compassion when they make the connection that these people are significantly in need of help," says Christopher Cushing, Coordinator of Transitional Education at the school. "The students soften up. They get it that they are helping others in a way  that is important and meaningful."

According to Father Bill's & MainSpring, The Table provides meals six days a week to men, women, and children. Volunteers, staff, and guests get to know one another over a hot meal served with dignity. Our students have volunteered at the The Table for more than six years.  

"I remember when the first kids came they were shy and, of course, not as fast. The guests were impatient because they want to be fed immediately," says Kathy Mullen, Volunteer Coordinator at Father Bill's & MainSpring.

"But it all worked out. Each core of kids has grown in confidence and the same with the guests, as they have gotten to know the students. It just took patience. It was an acceptance of both sides and it has been really beautiful to see," says Kathy.

The May Center School provides services to students with brain injury and related conditions. Students volunteer under the direction and supervision of a job coach.

Volunteering provides opportunities to develop and strengthen skills that will help them live more independently and gives them a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

"Our students are often on the receiving end of assistance from others. Here, they are the ones helping someone else, seeing that their contributions are valuable and that someone else can benefit from what they provide," says Cushing. "My hope is that this experience helps to push their sense of self far beyond what limitations they may experience as a result of their brain injury."

"The soup kitchen is my favorite job," says Nicholas, a student at the May Center School, pictured above. "I like helping people and making people happy."