COLLEGE STUDENTS VOLUNTEER AT LOCAL CHURCH KITCHEN

 

The Cafe Capital City in the basement cafeteria of the Capital Hill United Methodist Church where about 65 people ate and spoke for about an hour. Students from Georgia Southern University volunteered to help serve and clean the area. (Robert R. Denton)

WASHINGTON — In the fellowship hall of Capitol Hill United Methodist Church, a small, diverse group of people gathers for a meal every Sunday afternoon.

 

The Café Capitol Hill provides lunch to the homeless and other members of the community who might want to join the church for a meal. On this particular day, just one day before President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, the church welcomed a group of student volunteers from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga.

 

Nineteen students and two GSU staff members traveled by train from Savannah, Ga., to Washington, D.C., Thursday night. They participated in the National Day of Service on the National Mall Saturday before helping at the church Sunday.

 

The students helped serve meals and engaged the locals in conversation. That’s exactly what John Banter, a leadership coordinator with the university’s Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement, wanted the students to do.

 

“That’s partly why we chose to volunteer with the soup kitchen, because then our students will get to directly interact with some people there in D.C.,” Banter said. “They’ll see all of the pageantry that will exist with the inauguration and all of these other pieces that exist behind the scenes in our nation’s capital.”

 

Dave Kennedy is the team leader for Café Capitol Hill. He said the church serves food to dozens of people every Sunday.

 

“If there are 65 guys here, it’s 65 stories,” Kennedy said. “It’s not just that everybody here is homeless and in the same boat.”

 

Not all of the people who attend the lunch are homeless. Some are those who need to get back on their feet and others are people who attend the church.

 

“We get a couple of guys who are Ph.D.-educated who have just hit something hard in their lives,” Kennedy said.

 

At one table in the middle of the hall sat Ross Frye, a Washington native who attends Bible studies at the church.

 

“I used to be shy,” Frye said. But Sunday Frye spent about an hour talking with students from GSU. He laughed as he carried on a conversation with Emily Austin and Ashley Smith.

 

Their conversations ranged from topics like football to Frye’s hobby of oil painting.

 

“It was just great to have his experience and to talk to him and to hear about his life,” Austin said. “Getting to talk to him was just a great experience.”