By Patricia Papalian, volunteer, St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room
St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room has been providing a free meal in a safe, friendly place for 39 years. St. Anthony's serves about 175,000 hot, nutritious meals each year to anyone who comes. There are no fees, no questions, and no one is turned away.
Guests include the working poor, families, seniors, the disabled, veterans and others. All are less fortunate and all are welcome.
One guest's story
"I was traumatized," says Mel, reflecting on the hard times that brought him to St. Anthony's. With his wife of 30 years no longer at his side, the retired machinist and former small-business owner found himself lonely, bewildered and losing ground.
His insubstantial diet was partially to blame. Over time, paltry rations of fast-food took a toll on his health and left him gaunt, feeble and feeling low.
Today the senior has happier news to share. An avid bicyclist at 78 with an active social life, Mel says he has "never felt better."
Although those dark and lonely days are well behind him, his firsthand experience taught him the critical role nutrition plays in quality of life. Clearly invested in maintaining his good health, Mel carefully selects fresh fruits and vegetables from St. Anthony's grocery section to take home.
He enthuses about his consistent "clean bill of health" from "docs at the VA hospital" and credits the tasty nutritious meals at St. Anthony's for restoring his strength.
His favorite meal at the Dining Room? The roast-turkey dinner.
Socializing has enhanced Mel's life as well. The veteran says he has "met many nice people" lunching at the Dining Room, many of whom he now calls friends.
Mel is one of over 500 guests a day who enjoy a complete hot meal and take-home groceries all year long at St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room on Middlefield Road at the Atherton-Fair Oaks community border.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are the busiest days of the year and the Dining Room serves about 1,000 special meals on each holiday. In conjunction with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, toys for some 2,000 children are collected during the Christmas season for the Dining Room's annual free Christmas toy give-away event held the day before Christmas.