04/01/09 — Soup kitchen volunteer named year's best

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Soup kitchen volunteer named year's best

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 1, 2009 1:46 PM

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Eldica Cyrus was named Community Soup Kitchen Volunteer of the Year Monday night and received flowers and a plaque from Greg O'Donoghue, who advanced from board president to chairman the same evening.

When "Miss E" enters the Community Soup Kitchen, most everybody else just gets out of the way and lets her take over.

Eldica Cyrus, called "Miss E" by fellow volunteers at the kitchen and the 100 or so people who eat there daily, was named the organization's Volunteer of the Year during the Kitchen Cabinet's annual meeting Monday night.

More than 60 volunteers and other supporters attended the event.

Most of them know "Miss E" well because she's there cooking lunch on Mondays and Fridays and on every fifth Saturday. And when she arrives, kitchen manager Susan Britt steps aside.

"I let her help," Ms. Cyrus said with a laugh. "She's a nice person, very kind hearted."

The kitchen manager and the volunteer have formed a bond. Ms. Cyrus often stays late to make sure Mrs. Britt doesn't have to leave the kitchen alone after it closes.

"I never leave her there by herself in this neighborhood, And I go with her to deliver food from the soup kitchen," she said.

The friendship made it easy for Mrs. Britt to convince Ms. Cyrus to attend the annual meeting -- on the pretense of helping her make the dining room pretty. She had worked all morning and stayed late after lunch, as usual.

"She said, 'Come help me.' I said 'I'm tired. I'm not coming back,'" Ms. Cyrus said.

But Mrs. Britt was adamant and secretly determined to make sure Ms. Cyrus received the recognition she felt she was due.

Ms. Cyrus has been volunteering at the soup kitchen since 1999 when her church recruited her to help prepare meals every fifth Saturday. She liked it so much she added two more days. She is retired from nursing, and she said volunteering gives her something to do. During the summers, she brings her grandson to help out.

All of the volunteers have their own reasons for coming to the soup kitchen, and board member Kay Cooke said she is grateful for them all. From the person who peels the potatoes to the one who writes the checks, she said, the people who support the soup kitchen in any way are the reason the organization was able to serve 27,370 meals in 2008.

"There were 8,000 volunteer hours logged last year. Thirty seven churches, 14 civic groups and 33 businesses have taken part in some shape or form... Your support and generosity is inspiring, motivating and energizing to us," she told the group.

But she and the others who serve on the Kitchen Cabinet are volunteers, too. And Monday night, there was a changing of the guard on the executive board.

The new chairman is Greg O'Donoghue. Replacing him as president is Dr. Sean Hamilton. Chris Garrison is vice president. Mike Nault is secretary, and David Weil is treasurer.

And for the first time, the board has named five retiring members Friends of the Kitchen. They are former chairman Andrea Heekin, Kay Cooke, Mike Saylors, Richard Slozak and Tammy Forrester.