Serving with a Smile; And on Church China, Too

May 9, 2013

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Everybody eats at the Manna Café ... and on church china, too.

Wednesday evening 25 Ohio State Buckeyes bussed to the Broad Street United Methodist Church to help others, specifically by serving food and beverages, collecting used plates, trays and silverware, mingling and simply putting smiles on the faces of the 175 guests who, on this night, were in need of and much appreciative for their meal of roast beef with onion gravy, cheesy potatoes, green beans with ham and assorted vegetables and desserts.

"Everybody is welcome at the Manna Café," retired school teacher, café administrator and "gentle bouncer" Mary Cree said. "Some of these people have walked here from three miles away. Some are homeless. Others are in line to get an apartment. They come from all over the city and they really appreciate getting this meal."

The Manna Café, staffed Wednesday with Buckeyes like Jordan Hall, Jeff Heuerman, Carlos Hyde, Drew Basil, Christian Bryant, Nick Vannett and Rod Smith, a summer intern from OSU named Lexi and Martha Hicks, director of alumni relations for Ohio State's College of Medicine, has been serving its meals for 12 years. It costs $300 to sponsor a meal and local companies and organizations have provided the donations and additional support for the meals since the café first opened. Even an Ohio State student organization, "Recipe 4 Good," has sponsored a meal this year.

"We've served 110,000 delicious meals and every one with a smile," said Cree, sporting her own nonstop smile, a tie dyed head band and who kicked off dinner by getting everyone to sing "everybody eats at the Manna Café."

All the meals are served on the church's china.

"It's more work for the volunteers," Cree said, "but it makes the people feel good. And that's important."

There were only two issues Wednesday night, but both were good ones: the patrons didn't want to leave after eating because they wanted to hang with the Buckeyes; and the servers, including Warren Ball, Tyvis Powell, Blake Thomas and Chris Fields, were serving up portions fit for a football player, but they quickly corrected their four-slices-of meat portions down to two...or three.

"Tonight was certainly a special night for our guests," Hicks said. And she should know. She has been volunteering at Manna for two years and says "I really love it."

Fifth-year senior Jamie Wood, a veteran of many of the team's community service efforts, captured the essence of the team's feelings afterward when he tweeted:

"Humbling experience ... feeding the homeless."

Woods' tweet also included: "take nothing for granted."

The 25 Buckeyes at the Manna Café Wednesday night probably won't.