"Dining room" is a somewhat grand term but harmless. It sounds good.
It began in San Francisco. Franciscan Fr. Alfred Boeddeker (1903-1994) was the moving spirit behind opening of St. Anthony's Dining Room in 1950.
Now, in addition to San Francisco there is a St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room
in Menlo Park. CA 94025, which began serving low-income elderly residents of the Peninsula in 1974 and has grown into a large operation. Monday to Saturday, the door opens at 11:00 AM and meals are served until 1:00 PM to all comers ".....without regard to age, sex, race, religious beliefs, national origin, or disabilities". No questions asked....and no proselytizing.
It has paid staff but depends on volunteers for performance of various duties.
In addition to cash donations from individuals and local businesses, the dining room receives foodstuff from super markets and other stores. St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room has not escaped the fallout from the current state of economy. Cash contributions have suffered as have donations of food items.
But the dining room continues to serve 400-600 people six days a week. It is a clean, bright place. Everyone receives a freshly cooked meal. Service is friendly and courteous.
During my years as a volunteer (since 1992) I have come to know some of the "regulars"; have seen them grow older. Have seen young girls become mothers and come with their children. Inevitably, few of the elderly drop out because of illness or disability; and death takes some of them.
Rieselda, a young Nicaraguan, was one of the regulars. She stood out because she wore colorful berets and she always smiled. She didn't speak English and I don't know Spanish. Didn't matter. It made me happy to see her smiling face in the line. One day she came with an elderly woman and said "Mi Madre". I usually serve the vegetable of the day -- often zucchinis steamed, sprinkled with grated cheese, or in some other form. Not a very popular item. Rieselda was among those who declined it. Then, about two years ago, Rieselda stopped coming to St. Anthony's. I missed her but it was not unusual. And new faces always become a part of the line.
Yesterday, while tending my station at the serving counter I saw a woman wearing a beret in the line. It was Rieselda! Looking older and carrying a baby girl but with her trade-mark smile. I asked where she had been and she said "San Antonio". I was serving zucchinis. The line moved on.*
"For double the vision my Eyes do see,*****
And a double vision is always with me
With my inward Eye 'tis an old Man grey:
With my outward, a Thistle across my way."