Lasagna, Caesar salad and flu shots were on the menu at Auggie’s Cafe in Spruce Grove on Tuesday. One hundred and thirty guests, including Bishop Victoria Matthews, received a warm welcome as they dropped by for coffee and conversation.
The Auggie’s Café ministry offers a free meal every Tuesday and, thanks to the blessings of locally-provided donations of food and cash, it is financially self-sustaining. A small army of volunteers provides cooking, clean-up, and conversation that is given in the spirit of helping those in need of food and companionship.
“We heard about Auggie’s some time ago but we thought it was for people who couldn’t afford to go out to eat,” said Isabelle and George Hotchkiss. “Then we came to their five-year anniversary and now we meet our friends here every week. We wouldn’t see them as often if it wasn’t for Auggie’s.”
“I think that’s why most people come: to meet people and to socialize,” said Spencer Senger who lives on an acreage near Carvel. “You meet somebody every time and they come from everywhere, not just church here. The first time I came it was pretty full so I went and sat with three or four ladies. I found out I used to live right next door to one of them here in Spruce Grove 50 years ago.”
Senger remembers his first meal at Auggie’s, too. “They had perogies, cabbage rolls and Kielbasa and I thought, ‘gee whiz!’ I like the way they cook the vegetables here. They taste like they came right out of the garden.”
No food ever goes to waste at Auggie’s. After guests devoured four large pans of lasagna, the leftovers were sent home with people the volunteers know are in need of more than one good meal. Volunteers take home any remaining food scraps to compost in their organic bins.
Parkland County social service agencies, such as the Food Bank and Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), which assist people on a limited budget, tell people about Auggie’s to help when they need to stretch their food dollars. In addition, Cobs donates leftover bread and buns and guests can choose items to take home from the bread table.
While some guests dined and chatted with friends old and new, 35 people rolled up their sleeves for a flu shot. Last year St. Augustine’s-Parkland parishioner Bev Rushton thought it would be helpful to offer the flu vaccine to the patrons of Auggie’s Café.
“A lot of our stores hold off-site clinics,” said Rushton who is a pharmacist at Shoppers Drug Mart. “One day I had an inspiration that Auggie’s Café would be a good place to hold one as it might be a little easier for people than going to a pharmacy or another location,” she said.
“This is good,” said Joe and Hedy Glenn about getting their flu shots at Auggie’s. The couple also attends St. Augustine’s and have known Rushton since she was in grade seven.
“People really appreciate the convenience,” said Dana Isenor, a nurse who helped administer flu shots last year and again this year. “I think we may have encouraged a few people who might not have otherwise gone out to get one.”