Most of the time, Norfolk Rotarians are involved with sorting and packing food at the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia. We recently participated in a food distribution day at the Basilica of St. Mary's. Their food distribution coordinator, Ercelle Drayton, never knows how many volunteers will show up and sometimes has to handle it all on her own. We started with getting prepared for the distribution. Paper bags were loaded with canned goods and when the recipients arrived two packs of frozen chicken were added to the bags. But that wasn't all. They also could add apples, onions, cabbage and potatoes to their food baskets. There was also cereal (Special K) which Mrs. Drayton said wasn't very popular. But she did not know the power of persuasion of Rotarian Bob Batcher who convinced many to add it to their baskets even when Frosted Flakes were added as a choice. Outside, the people could add bakery goods.
We also got a tour of the historic Basilica of St. Mary's which was built in 1858. It has been undergoing an extensive renovation which started with the roof. But just as in our homes, one thing led to another. The exterior work led to the interior work. While removing flooring, the jack hammer went through to an underground tunnel. No one is sure but it might have been part of the Underground Railroad as Norfolk was a major stopping point with easy access to ships heading north. The $6.7 million renovation is nearing completion and the results are breathtakingly beautiful.
Those who volunteered all agreed that we would like to return for more food distributions at St. Mary's.