My name is Kaela Natale and I am a sophomore studying Public Health. I am connecting the Community Service Learning Program with my Introduction to Health Promotion course by volunteering at Martha’s Table. Martha’s Table provides hot meals in multiple locations in the district every day of the year. They partner with children, families, and neighborhoods in many more ways than just a reliable meal. Martha’s Table strives to help increase access to quality education through programs at their Healthy Start Center. They provide healthy food through their Martha’s Markets and Joyful Food Markets programs, which offer free groceries to over 30 locations in D.C. They also have family supports through their Parent Success Centers that offer parents programming in addition to two Martha’s Outlet thrift stores that provide clothes, coats, shoes and household items.
Volunteering at Martha’s Table is never boring. I am always on my feet, whether it is to grab shampoo for the three month program at the outlet, or getting ingredients to make muffins for one of the markets. Volunteering at Martha’s Outlet has opened my eyes to how small acts of kindness can change a person’s life. At the outlet anyone can come in to get clothes for very low prices. The program for clothing people in need is extremely beneficial. If the person coming in has identification they are able to get three tops, three bottoms, pair of shoes, a household item, and new underwear, all for no cost every three months. When I volunteered with the food program I baked hundreds of desserts to send on McKenna’s Wagon, which is a mobile food service that is active in serving hot meals 365 days a year to three different locations in the D.C. area.
My first day at Martha’s Table I had no idea what to expect. I had explored their website to get insight on their efforts as an organization, but had never been to any of their sites to experience what they did first hand. Five minutes into my first shift, my sleeves were rolled up and I was making 500 muffins for McKenna’s Wagon. I worked with Charlie, a student from Howard University who has been volunteering at Martha’s for years. He told me that the Outlet needed more volunteers and that I should see if I could volunteer there as well. The next time I went, I worked at the outlet distributing necessities to many people from varied backgrounds. Since then I have alternated between baking, food distribution and the thrift store.
My expectations for working with Martha’s Table in the beginning of the semester were that I would meet new people, get more experience working in new environments, and learn more about new areas of our Nation’s Capital. Throughout the process, my expectations have been surpassed. Martha’s Table has shown me that any act of kindness can change a person’s life for the better. I have worked with some of the most determined and hard working people. They inspire me every day. They have shown me that every action is appreciated.
I have made endless connections from my volunteer work to the Health Promotion course I am taking this semester. The one that resonated with me the most was the healthy eating behavior guidelines I have studied this semester. We study eating behaviors to create programs like the ones at Martha’s Table. It was interesting to see them implemented and how people react to them. Martha’s Table positively affects thousands of people’s eating behaviors each year. They provide healthy alternatives to fast food restaurants. I am excited to see what else I will be able to connect this volunteering experience to. I have much to learn from Martha’s Table as I continue to volunteer at this amazing organization.