LAKE PLACID - For the past six years, the "first-of-the-month" group cooks up more than 60 free meals at the Adirondack Community Church's Community Lunch program, though they only see each other a dozen times per year.
Jan Maswick will occasionally run into her partners at the grocery store or another neighborhood haunt around this village. But it's the first Wednesday of every month when she and the rest of the crew - Bea Lopus, Pat O'Leary, Laura Montgomery, Rosemary and Peter Ordway - get together to cook lunch for dozens of locals.
These friends, who once upon a time were strangers, always craft the same meal of ham, baked beans and coleslaw.
Jan Maswick (center) and her pals Bea Lopus, Pat O’Leary, Laura Montgomery and Peter Ordway have been coming together once a month for nearly six years to serve ham, beans and coleslaw during the first week of the month at the Adirondack Community Church’s Wednesday Community Lunch.
(News photo — Antonio Olivero)
On April 5, Maswick was the one shuffling out one hot plate after another to the regulars, many elderly or disabled, who sit, chat and eat at the church's mess hall.
"For me personally, I try to be the hands and feet of Christ," Maswick said in between picking up another hot plate at the counter and delivering it to a table. "If you ask others, it's for different reasons but for me I just like to bless people."
Most all of the folks here on April 5 come each week and know exactly what to expect. They sit six to a table. There are 36 seats total, as six tables are neatly set up within a perimeter that consists of a table covered with loaves of bread donated by Hannaford and two tables harboring dozens of sweets from Starbucks.
Maswick and her crew know some of these regulars by name, like Trudy over here, Becky over there and "always-smiling" Sean, who is parading around with a thank-you card for Hannaford.
Turnout is most always the same, though more families tend to come in the summer. And sometimes there are newbies, including a quiet man buried in his bowl of food on his maiden voyage to the community lunch. Sean will cheer him up and welcome him soon enough.
But then there are those regulars who Maswick knows by face, if not by name, such as Wayne at the back table or the two blind gentlemen from the Greenwood Apartments who always sit across from each other at the table nearest the cooking.
Whoever they are, they always sit in the same spot, including one special needs woman who returns to the Greenwood with a smiling salutation for the crew.
"Thank you," she said with a wave. "It's always my favorite ham!"
Some are here because they can't cook for themselves. Some are here because they want something more than the microwaved meals they hotbox through most of the week. Some are here because they can't afford anything else.
Still, there are others who choose to come for the camaraderie, for the comfortability that is eating the same meat and potatoes - or, in this case, ham, beans and coleslaw - that they chowed down on last week and hundreds of weeks prior.
"We encourage them to sit and chat and not to rush," O'Leary said. "It's become a thing for them to do on Wednesdays."
The giving back isn't contained to just the church, though. There is one gentleman who brings back eight boxes with him each week to the Greenwood Apartments for those who can't make the trip, after he finishes his own meal. As for leftovers, there are usually plenty, though Maswick said the group sometimes runs out after about 60 meals or so.
The crew knows breakdown is coming not soon after Sean arrives, usually at noon and requesting his usual extra helping of ham and beans. For Montgomery, it means more than six hours of volunteer work, as she arrives at 6:30 a.m. The rest of the group arrives around 8:30 to begin cooking.
Sean isn't the only regular with specific requests. As Ordway washes plates behind her, the clanging of glass reverberating through the mess hall, the women volunteers speak of how some of the regulars from the Greenwood Apartments are particularly finicky about their food.
"One gentleman always wants his salad separate," O'Leary said with a laugh. "No beans and separate."
"A lot of people are sensory," Maswick adds with a grin.
"They have more patience than I have," Lopus said of her teammates, with a laugh.
However well the first-of-the-month crew knows you, or however specific your food requests are, they'll always serve you with a smile. And they'll say goodbye with a smile.
"See you guys next time," Maswick said to a departing group headed for Greenwood. "And did you get your bread to go?"
The Adirondack Community Church, located at 2583 Main St. in Lake Placid, hosts the free Community Lunch from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Wednesday in the Fellowship Hall.