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April 20, 2009
By Cara Sievers
”May I see the wine list?” is not one of the questions one might expect to hear at a soup kitchen. But Michael Masini, regional vice president of channel sales at PAETEC, who coordinates a soup kitchen through his church, St. Athanasius, gladly accepted this joking compliment made by one of his patrons. In fact, Michael feels the atmosphere of his soup kitchen, which he calls, “St. A Café,” is one of respect, gratitude and service, and is what sets the café apart from other such venues.
Michael (left) accepts a food delivery from fellow volunteer and channel partner, Mike Reeg of Data-Tel.
Customers of the soup kitchen, which is held at a local church dining hall in Evanston, Ill., are not given numbers and made to wait in line; instead, they sit down to dressed tables with linens and floral arrangements and are waited on by volunteers. “This simple act allowed us to learn the names of our guests, and allowed them to maintain a level of dignity,” said Michael. “One of our guests said it best when he was asking for his ticket and we explained what we were going to do. ‘I’m not a number today,’ he said. That was meaningful years ago and it still is today.”
Even serving 100 to 125 people per sitting, the café doesn’t skimp on the fare. Each meal starts with a bread course and then a salad, followed by a main course, fruit and then dessert, which is usually homemade. Popular main courses include roast turkey or roast chicken with mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and cranberry cobbler.
“In some way, we do market research and ask our guests how we can do better,” explained Michael, noting that many of their great ideas have come from guests. For example, they will bring in four or five TVs for football playoffs and serve football food, like beef sandwiches or burgers and brats. Similarly, they bring in a choir, a Christmas tree and wrapped gifts at Christmastime to help make the season merry. It’s clear that St. A Café is not just a place to eat, but a place to for fellowship and celebration.
“Our Christmas event is very moving,” said Michael. “It is not uncommon to see some folks who appear pretty hard on the street shedding tears of joy. If nothing else, we have learned what giving really means.”
For more than six years, Michael has been devoted to the soup kitchen and often rallies his family and friends to help. “Much of the cooking becomes a family affair; it takes all hands on when 50 pounds of potatoes need to be peeled, cubed and mashed,” said Michael, explaining that his two sons are usually recruited for such tasks.
Michael (second from right) chats with several guests at St. A Café.
Some of the agents Michael works with have been known to get involved as well. For example, Mike Reeg from Data-Tel, along with his family and other Data-Tel employees, volunteered to donate food or wool socks, gloves and hats. Soon after, they started to give their time as well and have been part of the soup kitchen for years now.
Michael said coordinating the soup kitchen has been rewarding and has made him realize just how much he has to be thankful for. “Every event provides a moment or memory that transcends our normal day-to-day concerns,” said Michael. “I would encourage everyone to give some time to his or her community. The experience always gives back more than you can give.”
First job: Shoveling snow at age 10 with his brother, Marc, in Park Ridge, Ill. In 1979, they made as much as $500 per day after a record-setting blizzard.
Song to live by: “With My Own Two Hands,” by Ben Harper.
Thoughts on telecom: “To be in telecom is not only to be a part of a technological revolution but it is also to be a part of a cultural revolution. The impacts to our lives are immeasurable. I continue to be optimistic about the telecom industry, particularly channel sales. I most enjoy the entrepreneurial mindset that agents bring to the industry.”
Do you know someone who has Personality+? We’re looking for interesting characters in telecom to take the spotlight! Please send nominations to Cara Sievers at [email protected].
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