After a remarkable nineteen years of volunteer service leadership, Ashley Garrett ‘96 is ending her role as Director of Friday Soup to seek a full time position. Galen Guengerich, All Souls Senior Minister, said that although it’s a “daunting prospect to effect this transition, Ashley richly deserves the opportunity she is seizing to begin a new chapter in her life.” (Ashley is also a voice actor, and many of us remember her as the announcer on the All Souls Sunday Morning radio show on WQXR before that station went public.)
The Friday Soup program serves hundreds of nutritious meals to people in need each week. All Souls Church is widely known for its meal programs, including Monday Night Hospitality; both programs were established in 1977 by the late Rev. Forrest Church to provide food for hungry people in our community. Ashley exemplifies Forrest’s charge to live by deeds, not creeds. During Ashley’s tenure, thousands of guests have been able to enjoy a hot sit-down meal where they can socialize with their friends in a relaxed and dignified environment. Ashley has established an astonishing network of dedicated volunteers, which is always a challenge for anyone trying to provide a meal in the middle of a weekday.
Ashley expresses gratitude for the assistance offered by All Souls Staff, past and present, to assure that things go smoothly: Annie Gorycki, Tim Wong, Yuen Hing Kwan, Minh Tieu La, Ronald Speight and the late Jeffro Bryant. Every Friday, more than fifty volunteers are needed to prepare and serve a hot lunch that also includes sandwiches, salad, dessert, juice and coffee. They set tables (using chinaware, glasses and stainless steel cutlery), wait on the guests and clean up after the meal. Some people volunteer each week while others come when they can. A cadre of regular volunteers leads others in their service assignments. Fourteen years ago, Ashley established a program that enables students from neighborhood schools to volunteer. Younger students learn to set tables and make desserts; they also hold drives to collect take-out containers. Older students learn to wait on guests during the meal service by working with experienced volunteers. Every year, more than 400 students participate in this program. Additionally, local companies, summer schools and mission groups send volunteers. With good humor, Ashley commands a pervasive atmosphere of caring and respect.
Ashley, and her husband, Alan Jones ‘96, known as AJ, were drawn to All Souls Church because of its outreach programs. They were looking for a solid religious education program for their daughters, Megan Jones, now 19, and Caitlin Jones, 14. Ashley was raised in the Quaker faith that encourages volunteering at an early age. She was inspired by the dynamic service efforts of the Friday Soup program. NY1 News chose Ashley and the All Souls Friday Soup volunteers as “New Yorker of the Week.” The website, www.fridaysoupnyc.org describes their efforts and serves to inspire donations and recruit volunteers.
Susan Lambiase, All Souls Church Executive Director, said that “the Friday outreach is an important program that Ashley has lovingly built and maintained. We want to do everything we possibly can to ensure that Ashley’s legacy continues to be successful.” Susan is working with Ashley on the leadership transition plan. George Collins’94, director of the Monday Night Hospitality program, and John Sheehan, social worker for both the Monday and Friday programs, will take on various Friday tasks to maximize meal service efficiency going forward as more volunteer roles are developed.
The All Souls Meal Programs are underwritten by the Heart & Soul Charitable Fund with money raised at its annual auction. Ashley and AJ have been major supporters of this philanthropic endeavor through the years. Ashley will be a featured honoree during the 25th Anniversary Year of Heart & Soul that kicks off with a Wine Tasting Party at All Souls on October 25.
–By Bill Bechman ‘87, President of the Heart & Soul Charitable Fund