Tuesday, November 25, 2014


First off, let me say that this year’s Waffle Shop was another great success.  Thanks to everybody who came down, and even to those who thought about coming but couldn’t quite handle the record-setting cold and windy conditions.  By the time the doors closed on Friday, we were just four folks short of 1,800.  That’s a good number for a week of decent late-November weather, let alone one that started with a day of snow and school closings.  

A different kind of tally shows that Waffle Shop grossed over $20,000, which should give us something like $13k to award in grants after all the bills are paid.  My goal every year is to award a minimum of $10k in Outreach Grants.  We always haven’t been so fortunate.  A few years ago all we could muster was just under $5k, so by any manner of assessment, the 85th Waffle Shop was a lovely success. 

One of my more pleasant responsibilities as general chair of Waffle Shop is to gather as many staff as possible in the dining room for announcements and a prayer just before opening every day.  By 10:45 the parish hall-cum-dining room is smelling of the first batch of waffles and the soups of the day as three or four dozen volunteers circle up.  By day two, everybody wants to hear about ‘numbers’ for opening Tuesday.  Front door, dining room, and carry-out totals are announced and gross by department, if available.  Everybody was pleased to hear how we were doing.  

But one thing I tried to stress this year, as is mentioned every year, is not the numbers so much as the feel of offering Waffle Shop hospitality.  This downtown church event began way back in 1929 when Third and Main was the epicenter of commercial and social activity in the region.  A few decades ago Waffle Shop even served evenings for Christmas shoppers when Rike’s, Elders, and The Metropolitan were open until 9.  

Waffle Shop became a seasonal event that lots of people attended, including my own mother who was a legal secretary based downtown in her working days.  At 93 years-old she came this year, too, thanks to transport provided by daughter Kelly and sister Patty.  Mother can’t hear well, but she so enjoys the event — and the pair of poinsettias I’ve made the point to gift her with every Thanksgiving.  She tells me how proud she is of me.  I always respond with some version of how she and Dad taught all their children to serve others.  Such service is a legacy thing for me and, I suspect, many Waffle Shop workers.  

This year marks my thirteenth as general chair, and I must admit I have wondered for a few years now if it is time to step away from the head honcho position and let somebody else take the reins.  Yes, I am a bit weary of year-long tasks, but I also wondered if someone else might have new ideas to bring forward that would make Waffle Shop even better.  

As I sat with rector John Paddock mid-Waffle Shop just before opening, he thanked me sincerely, again, for all the work I do to get Waffle Shop ready to open.  But then he looked a bit more thoughtful and said that out of all the changes wrought to Waffle Shop during my term as chair, the one he feels most significant is the expanding community of volunteers that makes Waffle Shop work.  

First it was the folks at St. Andrew Episcopal out on Salem, then the Living Beatitudes Community which has meeting space in our church undercroft.  Most recently we have welcomed members of First Baptist Church, our physical neighbor a block away on Monument Avenue, to join us.  After prayer early in the week, a new wheelchair-bound volunteer from First Baptist rolled up to me and thanked us for letting them take part in Waffle Shop.  At first I was speechless.  She was thanking me for becoming part of a coming together of souls that hums with positive energy.  

And I guess that’s the thing that warms me most about the ministry that is Waffle Shop.  Sure, it may have begun and matured during times when the community of downtowners numbered in the tens of thousands, whether workers or shoppers.  But, trust me, though smaller, that community still exists.  And about 1,800 of us gathered at Waffle Shop last week to celebrate life in our town.   

Downtown today is as relevant as the cadre of people who live, work, worship, dine, attend shows, and visit there.  Waffle Shop is a special local event that makes all of us community, whether we reside in Dayton, Greenville, Waynesville, Yellow Springs, Kettering, or Harrison Township.

We are not alone.  We are community.  It is an honor to be a part of a legendary downtown event that still today illustrates who we are and what working, eating, and being together is all about.  

Today’s elder idea:  Thanks to cafepress.com for this one:  

image: top: The dining room on Waffle Shop Tuesday.