THANK YOU FOR SIGNING UP!
Once you have received confirmation from Nancy Yates and have used MNH SignUp.com to register for your Monday time slot, please take a few minutes to review these details to get you oriented prior to the evening.
We are a unique meal and social services program in that we serve meals to seated guests who eat at tablecloth covered tables with china and flatware. Often musicians play for our guests. Coffee, tea, juice are available all night long. We call those that join us guests as befits a social service evening that looks to dignity and love to help those in need.
We serve all who come to us in need without any questions or requirements other than they enjoy each other’s company and respect all that share the night. Some are homeless and living on the streets, some are what is termed urban poor – with some income but not enough to provide, others are elderly – lonely and in need of companionship as well as nutrition. Others are working poor – with jobs that barely pay enough for them to survive. All are in need and all are welcome. Some have been recently released from prison and have a right and deserve a new chance – we recognize that and are there to help them. A major part of the night involves socialization – a step in helping people feel comfortable with each other. Our social worker has stressed that warding off dementia and feelings of isolation involve proper nutrition, social interaction and consistency. We provide all three. Volunteers that serve frequently often have very tender and meaningful interactions with our guests.
We are inspected by the same city agency that rates restaurants. They are just as tough on us – checking things like the temperature of water in the rest rooms, presence of any rodent droppings, any food on the floor of the refrigerator, mold in the icemaker, dented cans of pasta sauce and the presence of gloves and hats for everyone in the kitchen while food is prepared. We ask all volunteers to wear gloves and change them if one touches one’s face, uses the bathroom or touches a cell phone. There is no five second rule. If something touches the floor it must be rewashed. Any food placed before a guest cannot be reserved. All food on tables must be thrown out at the end of the evening. Wash your hands and remember that what is a little cold or cough could be a trip to the emergency room for our guests. Gloves are available all night in the coat check room.
Volunteers are encouraged to check bags and outer clothing (the hall gets quite warm with 270 people). A staff member is always present with the clothing and volunteers are not allowed to get their own possessions but must present their claim tickets.
Monday Night Hospitality has a retired NYPD officer present for the safety of our guests as well as the safety of our volunteers. We ask that volunteers use good judgment in talking to guests (such interaction is encouraged) and never give out personal information. At any point a volunteer for any reason feels uncomfortable that should immediately go to George or Nancy and they will be reassigned to a different part of the night. If guests are having a dispute of any kind, we ask volunteers to remove themselves and tell a supervisor so that we can offer assistance to those guests. We try to negotiate and serve rather than punish guests. Often a kind word or explanation by a trained staff member is all that is needed. Guests know that unacceptable behavior will result in them not being allowed to be in community with us and they value their place in Monday night’s event.
Our guests use two bathrooms in the hall that leads to our coat check, a ladies room on the first floor and bathrooms on the mezzanine level on the Lexington Ave side of the hall. Volunteers are encouraged to use the disabled bathroom which is locked (the key is kept with the coat check team. It is clean and permits volunteers to be safe and to return to their work quickly.
Length of the Evening
We ask volunteers to arrive between 6:15 and 6:30. Earlier help is always welcome. Volunteers are encouraged to stay until the hall is swept and all of the clean dishes and pieces of flatware are dried and put away in the closet. Generally all of these tasks are over by 8:45. Without restoring the hall, our agreement for its use would be much more difficult to arrange.
We have two licensed social workers (LMSW) that work with our guests to secure housing, get medical assistance and entry to addiction programs. If a guest wants to see a social worker, direct them to the room next to the kitchen (Minot Simons Room). While they can’t assist every guest, we should always look for those in most need – for example: anyone mentioning suicide, young families, those that appear in distress. Our social workers have provided life-changing counseling – helping guests in despair, showing signs of dementia, needing clothes and wanting to get off the streets. Many of our guests have recently been released from prison and our social workers understand their need to find a new life and employment. They also assist in getting identification cards replaced, access to training programs and recommendations for access to special housing for pregnant women, LGBT teenagers and others at great risk. Our lead social worker is John Sheehan, LMSW.
Types of Meals we Serve
All of the food served is prepared by our cook staff under the direction of our head chef, Kathleen Taylor, co-chair at MNH. Fresh meat, frozen vegetables, milk and other food items are purchased each Saturday and delivered to All Souls. The small storage area and desire to serve fresh food mandate that purchasing pattern. Soup is made either on Saturday or Sunday. The food service volunteer staff begins the food preparation at 4 pm and leaves at 7pm when the food is brought out to our serving line. We offer the regular entrée – perhaps a lemon chicken thigh, broccoli with butter and rice with caramelized onions. We offer a vegetarian option which has a bean casserole substitution for the chicken or beef entrée. There is also a limited number of vegan meals provided by Candle 79. Salads for each table are kept in the kitchen and are only put on tables at the direction of row captains after everyone has their main course at a table (salads are consumed from the dinner plates). We prepare only enough salads for the entire hall so care must be taken in their serving. Those working the serving line must wear hats and gloves at all times.
Meal Service Timing
We start our first meal service at 6:50 with the Express tables (designated with checkered table cloths). Those guests have agreed to eat and run – leaving at 7:30 but still be served the full meal including dessert. We provide a piece of fruit upstairs for them on their way out. Seniors and disabled are invited into the hall first and if they want they can sit at one of the express tables. The hall is divided into rows supervised by experienced volunteers in Red Aprons. First while some volunteers are serving coffee and tea we start the meal service by offering a bowl of homemade soup (often split pea or lentil). Volunteers must serve only one bowl as the soup has to serve the first 220 guests in the hall and then be available for the second seating at 7:40 for 130 guests who have been waiting upstairs. They also expect to have a bowl of soup.
After the soup service we collect the soup bowls and spoons provided the meals have all left the kitchen. We encourage volunteers to finish a table before moving to another table so that all guests are served in a timely manner. Additional bread is available at the end of the serving line and one should bring the bread basket for refill. Butter packets are in the kitchen (on the table just before the refrigerator door). If a guest requests a vegan meal, then that request with the table number should be conveyed to the appropriate row captain. Red juice and water (from the kitchen) should be kept filled as they are a vital source of hydration. When the red juice runs out, volunteers should rinse out the pitcher add ice and fill it with ice tea from one of the two tall beverage containers at the kitchen end of the serving line. Row Captains will direct the serving of salads and desserts.
We have learned that our guests are rarely afforded the privileges that many of us take for granted. We encourage our volunteers to answer a request, for example, for extra bread, butter, hot sauce, hot chocolate, a to-go container, or anything else to answer in the affirmative – “Certainly, let me go see if we have any”. In most cases the fulfilment of a simple request is a very positive part of our hospitality effort to serve guests with dignity and compassion.
Given the great demand and large number of guests most nights, we can’t provide seconds to our guests. If we do have extra food at the end of the second service (about 8:00 PM or so) we will offer it to our guests. A very careful procedure is necessary to serve seconds. First only one plate at a time can be brought up the serving line. Volunteers should ask guests what they would like so that no food is wasted. One plate only so that there is no confusion about a plate belonging to a different guest. If two plates are taken by mistake we suggest that to clean plates be substituted. Serving staff cannot let a serving implement touch a plate and if it does that implement must be washed before it can be used again. These are NYC Board of Health rules – for the safety of those we serve.
Our door staff are among the most visible and contribute the radical hospitality that we strive to provide. They mention the menu for the evening, provide coffee, tea and juice and manage the guest flow into our hall. Guests are admitted in small groups and shown to seats. This same staff provides to-go meals in the garden and fruit and other items to guests as they leave. They set the tone for the evening by recognizing our guests as the valued members of our Monday Night Hospitality experience that they are! Our guests are the reason for our service and we are grateful to them for our chance to provide some of their needs in a compassionate way. Limited positions on the door staff are available.
The staff at this table that is near the kitchen door plays a vital role in keeping our plates and flatware clean and free of germs. After the soup course ends, this table is where our serving volunteers are asked to bring used plates. A large pot is available for liquids and a bowl with hot soapy water is at the end of the table for used flatware. After our scrapping staff removes most food the plates go into a pre-wash station in the kitchen and then onto our dishwasher for a final wash and sterilization. All of these steps are there to insure that all plates and flatware are properly cleaned after the evening’s use.
Replacement Table items
At the table behind the serving line near the ice tea dispensers we have napkins, extra tea bags, sugar for refilling dispensers (halfway), plastic flatware, sugar substitutes and other items that guests request. Row Captains in red aprons know where the necessary replacement items are kept. Milk is in the refrigerator (care must be taken as the milk has to last all night) and butter pats are in the kitchen. There is an ice dispenser in the kitchen for use in filling pitchers. Coffee and hot water for tea are in the kitchen.
Our meal and social work access cost under $6.00 for each guest. We accept all donations to help us serve over 18,000 meals and provide many hundreds of social work visits. Health screenings in cooperation with a Harlem based clinic will begin in November and be supervised by our social worker. This is a remarkable step in caring for the lives of our guests.
Annual Schedule + Special Holidays
We serve those in need every Monday of the year regardless of whether it is a holiday night or not. In 37 years of service, MNH has never missed a night and a small crew of us was even available to serve meals during Hurricane Sandy. Special holiday meals are served on the Monday closest to Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King Day, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The menu on those Mondays is always holiday appropriate.
Company Matching + Serving Nights
We encourage volunteers to make donations to our program (we are self-funded) and have two 501(c)(3) for corporate gifts that are not affiliated with any religious organization. One is Outreach Information Services and the other is Heart & Soul Charity. Neither have any employees and all funds go to supporting the meal programs and social work efforts that occur each and every Monday Night. Corporate nights are available for team building and service to our city. We request companies and groups to make a contribution to our program. Companies joining us include, Franklin Templeton, First Eagle Investors, Travelers, FCB health. Matching fund programs are available for employees of Goldman Sachs, US Bank and Merrill Lynch. Some firms grant donations based on employee hours of service and we are happy to certify hours served. We also certify hours served for high school students that help set the tables from 4:00 to 5:30 in a wonderful addition to our evenings. Often we find ourselves on their college applications. We have also recommended volunteers to work with the Peace Corps, the State Department and graduate school. Colleges that support us with students include Manhattanville College, Columbia, Fordham, Pace, NYU Stern School of Applied Psychology and Appalachian State Nursing and Social Work Schools.