The dining hall at St Aban really comes to life during the weekly Community Meal. It transforms rapidly from a quiet, empty hall into one bustling with activity: chattering people, clattering plates, announcements over the PA system, people filing up to the serving area, back to their tables, eating, up for a coffee, servers coming round with seconds, then dessert. After the meal, people empty and stack their plates, then file out, and our hall volunteers rush around stacking chairs, rolling away tables, then they file out and almost as rapidly the hall is returned back to its pre-meal state: quiet and empty.
Well, it may be empty but it's not exactly quiet because the adjacent kitchen is buzzing with noisy and steamy activity as our kitchen clean up crew tackles the gargantuan task of cleaning up after everyone. And with a typical meal serving over 150 people, it's a huge job, especially since most of it is done by hand. A team of eight or so volunteers tackle this each week, washing all the pots and pans and dishes and cutlery, by hand, loading them into trays, running them through the sanitizing machine, drying them off, again by hand, then putting them all back where they belong. They are the last volunteers standing each night, and the work they do is such an essential part of the Community Meal and we thank them all very much.