Responding to

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone
who can never repay you.”
John Bunyan
Most of our clients will never know the volunteers who prepare, package and deliver their meals even though some may chat with their delivery drivers. Most won't ever know the time and attention that went into making sure those meals are balanced, nutritious, and healthful. They simply know that an army of kind and compassionate people care enough every day to make sure they're fed.

That is the generosity of spirit that marks Kitchen Angels volunteers.

"Generosity of spirit" is the openness and willingness to share our own 'gifts' freely with others, joyously and willingly and without expectation of receiving anything in return.

And that's what wearing a face mask is all about.

We just celebrated the 244th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence over the weekend. For 245 years, people in this country have been challenged to find a balance between our freedom to believe and act as each of us would like, without hindrance or restraint, and behaving in a manner that supports a larger common good, benefiting people we may never know. Today, the coronavirus pandemic seems to be testing us in a way that no one has seen since World War II.

"Public health" is not an ideological concept. It is “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private communities, and individuals,” according to C-E.A. Winslow , a seminal public health expert who studied and taught during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Essentially, Winslow promoted the idea that individuals' choices and behaviors could have enormous impacts on the health and quality of life for others.

The number of reported COVID-19 cases in Santa Fe County more than doubled in June, to 90, from the 42 cases reported in May. At a news conference held at the end of the month, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber commented, “According to the data I’ve seen, the outbreak we are seeing right now is not tourism-related. It has been more or less isolated to some specific members of our community where the families have passed COVID to each other, and that’s been a spike very much localized to individuals." To me, this says two things. First, we are causing our own increase in local cases of COVID-19. Second, we can drive the number of new cases down by simply modifying our behavior.
None of us was sure what to expect when we re-opened KITCHENALITY last week. Although we'd had some volunteers in the shop the previous week to try out our new social distancing protocols, opening to the general public would potentially introduce a whole new set of challenges.

What I saw surprised me.

Rather than be irritated by our requirements to mask up (now a public health order) and glove up, be screened by a "greeter" and possibly asked to wait if there was already the limited number of people in the store, customers expressed relief and even praise for our efforts. They seemed to understand that our requirements were there to keep them safe and, in so doing, keep others in the community safe. Most were already familiar with the protocols.

But evidently the same isn't true of everyone. In her news conference last week, the Governor issued additional enforcement measures to stem the rising number of infections. As reported in the Santa Fe New Mexican , police will “aggressively” enforce mask-wearing, issuing $100 citations to those who don’t use them. Businesses whose employees don’t wear face masks will be charged with a misdemeanor and also will be fined $100. “Far too many New Mexicans became too lax," the Governor commented. "I’m disappointed that too many New Mexicans didn’t take this seriously.”
Wearing a face mask, washing our hands and staying six feet apart isn't an onerous expectation, nor is it an infringement on our civil rights, as some seem to be arguing. It's a public safety measure just like wearing seat belts while driving or riding in a car. In 1984, when New York State enacted the first mandatory seat belt usage law, the effort was seen by many as an infringement on people's civil rights. Today, buckling up is a routine behavior that few of us even think about and that saves thousands of lives every year.

The current crisis requires that we remember we are each part of a larger community. It demands that we think not just about ourselves, but about others. We may never know whose life we saved, or even if we saved, by masking up and staying a safe distance from others. But as the data are showing us, our personal choices and the actions we take translate into a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of our entire community.

It is our generosity of spirit and capacity to consider the needs of others that mark Kitchen Angels volunteers. It's also why I believe that masking up and staying safe comes more naturally to us than it does to many others.

To each of you and the entire Kitchen Angels family, thank you.

In gratitude,
Thank you for your vigilance. We want you to stay safe, healthy and informed.
How We Think About It Can Make All the Difference

Wearing a face mask doesn't come easy to many people. Although some professions naturally call for the protection a face mask offers, the coronavirus is asking that all of us learn new habits. Here's some information on how to best wear one so that it provides the most protection while causing the least annoyance.

Language is powerful and the words we use can create strong feelings. In this article , a team of researchers found that making a simple change in the terminology we use to describe our risk-limiting behaviors might help people feel a little more positive about what we're all being asked to do.
It's Easy to Forget . . .

The self-assessment form we ask each volunteer to complete before coming in for a shift is intended to accomplish a few things.

First, we need to know that the volunteers who come into our building or who deliver meals to clients are remaining as "risk free" as possible. We're already operating with a reduced number of volunteers and we cannot afford any spread of COVID-19 among our volunteer family and staff. In addition, clients are relying on us to keep them as safe as possible. We take that responsibility very seriously.

Second, the assessment is intended to prompt volunteers to reflect on whether their daily activities put them at heightened risk. Un-masked face-to-face interactions, whether indoors or outdoors, all pose an increased risk of infection. You should know the people with whom you're interacting and the risks they're taking.

It's easy to forget everything we do in the course of a day or week but, the next time you're filling out your assessment, take a few moments to think about what you've done since your last volunteer shift and whether you raised or lowered the risk of infection to yourself and to others.

If you're not sure, ask. We promise not to judge you. We just need to know.
If you want to return to volunteering . . .

. . . please first ask yourself if you are willing to adhere to our required social distancing protocols throughout all parts of your day, and not just while at Kitchen Angels.

In particular: 
  1. Am I able to work a full shift wearing a face mask?
  2. Can I hear well enough from six-feet away if the other person is speaking through a face mask?
  3. Am I willing to work a different shift than the one I previously worked?
  4. Can I commit to showing up to my shift on-time and without canceling at the last minute?
  5. Can I adapt to a new environment and new routine?
  6. Can I reliably communicate with the Volunteer Coordinator?
  7. Do I feel safe being back in the public sphere?

If you answer "NO" to any of these questions, you're not ready to return.