The Ebb and Flow
of the Feed ‘Em Family
by Nicholas Holmberg
You would think that things would be back to normal here at Feed ‘Em Soup after guest chef’s tikka masala tango on June 27. But I am quickly realizing that there really is no normal. Perhaps a break from routine is why so many people want to be involved in this local phenomenon.
As soon as I arrived, Derek put me in charge of training the wait staff. In spite of my seven years removed from a decade in the service industry, I gladly wear the badge of the rusty old retired-waiter-in-residence. I gave a spiel to the newest food servers of the Feed ‘Em volunteer army. I think it went well; just don’t call me Captain.
Shortly thereafter, Collin Bredson, one of the founding members of Feed ‘Em Soup, informed me that he is leaving DeKalb for a job in Florida. It was his last night. While he didn’t say it out loud and I’ve known him for only a short time, I get the sense that having to leave this organization will be one of the hardest things he’ll have to do. On my first day, to listen to him talk about the place was like listening to a man talk about his family—a large, ever-expanding and changing family.
Indeed the family changes frequently. The summer staff here has seemed relatively lean for the front of the house. Last week, we were short servers; this week, it seemed we would be shorthanded on bussers. But this is a well-oiled machine: all components work together to give the guests the best experience possible. And tonight, like the other two times I’ve volunteered here, things fell into place. There were too many new faces to enumerate here today, but Girl Scout Troop 1311 from Sycamore were here in full force. Troop leaders Kelly Ericson, Debbie Frankovich, and Laura Mesjak directed the small unit of girls in their drink-refilling duties. By the end of the night, they were an elite group of beverage tenders, earning their patches and building character.
By 5:15, it seemed as though people were just coming in off the street to help out. And it’s a good thing, too. The number of meals tonight—315 barbeque chicken dinners—is a record for this establishment. Derek was particularly proud of this fact. He also was happy to see an old friend of his, another founding member, Jeremy O’Brien. Jeremy hadn’t been around since February when he took time off to be with his family. Since then, this 35 year old family man has been adjusting to his own expanding family (he now has a four-month old daughter); he knew little of the new equipment in the kitchen that has increased serving capacity drastically since he was last here.
Also, he seemed amazed with the transformation of the clothes closet. “It used to be that there were just too many clothes and not enough volunteers to organize them,” Jeremy told me. “Now, if you want clothes for an 8 month old girl, you’ll have no problem finding them. What the volunteers have done in there is amazing.”
Like a proud father, he was proud of what his baby has become.