Today we’d like to introduce you to Sherry Hughes.
Sherry, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve been at Women’s Lunch Place for a little over 2 years. I was working as a chef instructor at Community Servings in Jamaica Plain, filling in for the chef there when she needed an extended leave. I was planning to start my own business, catering, teaching and working as a personal chef. When the job opportunity arose, I wasn’t sure I could commit to the commute. My husband, Barry, suggested I give it six months and see how I felt then. After being here for a week, I knew it was a perfect fit. I worked in restaurants for 10 years in my 20s … in bars, dining rooms and kitchens. I also worked as a corporate trainer for Friendly’s for 5 years, traveling up and down the East Coast, opening new restaurants for them.
After that, I worked in media for 22 years, as a radio talk show host and as a writer and editor at a daily newspaper in my home state, New Hampshire and as a freelance writer at other publications. When I was laid off at the newspaper, I struggled to find a job … print journalism has been on the ropes for a decade or more. So, I went looking for a job in a kitchen (you know, just until another writing job popped up). A kitchen manager took a chance and hired me (I probably looked like the one most likely to not call in sick or something), and found myself loving the life of the kitchen, again. That was in 2011. Since then, I graduated from culinary school (The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts), worked in a couple of professional kitchens and done a lot of teaching.
Landing here has really been wonderful.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has been relatively smooth, and I had great support with the bumps in the road. I knew how to cook in volume, I knew the equipment, cooking techniques and for the most part, ordering food.
But I didn’t know much about food insecurity and serving this population (poor and homeless women) … their needs and how best to cook for them. Our kitchen and many other parts of the organization is fueled by volunteers, which is also new for me. They have been amazing … some of them have been volunteering here for decades. As with any job, there has been a learning curve, but it’s been a joyful ride.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Women’s Lunch Place – what should we know?
Women’s Lunch Place is a daytime shelter for poor and homeless women. We provide a safe environment for women to come to six days a week, from 7 am to 2 pm. Our organization got it starts 35 years ago and we’ve always been in the same location, at The Church of the Covenant. The idea came from two women who worked at another shelter and saw that homeless women often didn’t have a place to go, off the street, during the day. They opened the doors and we’ve been here ever since. We serve breakfast and lunch, but we also offer showers, a nap room, washers and dryers for the ladies to do their laundry and a host of other services. We help them with housing, jobs, and legal issues. There is medical care offered for free every day. We have a closet offering personal care items and we also have an art room where the ladies can take classes or do crafts. Volunteers offer yoga and meditation as well.
Our focus is on meeting women where they are at and finding out how we can help them. We don’t do any intake, we just welcome them with open arms. We serve our ladies breakfast from 8-10, hot cereal, eggs, fresh fruit, yogurt, toast. At lunch, we serve them lunch on real plates (not paper or plastic) at tables that are set with fresh flowers. We do this to show them, love, to treat them with dignity and respect.
For us, dignity is everything. Last year we served over 104,000 meals. We receive food donations from many sources, including the Greater Boston Food Bank and Lovin’ Spoonfuls (food rescue).
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I wake up with a grateful heart every day. That may sound cliché, but it’s true. I’ve had struggles in my life, but I’ve also been incredibly blessed. And … I have a good sense of humor, which helps.
- Address: 67 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116
- Website: www.womenslunchplace.org
- Phone: 617-267-0200
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: wlpboston
- Facebook: womens lunch place
- Twitter: WLPBoston
Dana Siles Photography