It was Wednesday morning and I was getting a little nervous. We had a sponsored lunch scheduled at the INN soup kitchen in Hempstead-Long Island's largest-and two of the four volunteers who were supposed to help me serve had backed out at the last minute.

That's when I remembered Bert. I know Bert from Brotherhood at my temple and he had often asked me about the volunteer work I do for the Interfaith Nutrition Network. So, Wednesday morning I sent Bert an email, asking him if he'd like to help us serve lunch that day. Two minutes later, I had his reply-an enthusiastic yes!

Later, at the soup kitchen, Bert confided that he was supposed to have lunch with a friend in the city, but the friend had called and canceled their date just minutes before my email. Bert thought it was just a coincidence; I knew it wasn't. Bert was meant to be with me, helping to serve hungry people, instead of eating lunch at some upscale Manhattan restaurant.

Bert has a fair, working knowledge of Spanish, which always helps when so many of our guests have limited English language skills. I could tell Bert was enjoying himself, and when I left at 1 p.m. to go back to work (I still work full-time), he happily stayed behind to help with the clean-up.

Later I got an email from Bert. "Dave...after you left we served another 30-40 meals. Thank you so much for inviting me, I had a blast." Almost everyone who has helped serve a meal with me at this soup kitchen wants to come back and do it again. There's no better feeling than handing a plate of hot, nutritious food to a mom with two kids, to a senior citizen, or to a veteran, and seeing their eyes light up and the smiles they give you.

Many of our guests stop to say "Thank You." Some even say "God Bless You." I always say, "You're welcome, it's our pleasure." And I always feel that somehow they've given me more than I could ever give them.

If you've had some blessings in your life, join me in supporting the INN, which has been serving hungry and homeless Long Islanders for more than 25 years. Every $25 the INN receives provides good meals for 10 people. Your donation in whatever amount your heart may prompt makes a real difference in the lives of our less fortunate neighbors.

Please make your check payable to: The Interfaith Nutrition Network. Donations may be mailed to Dave Golbert, 7 Lee Court West, Great Neck, NY 11024. To donate food, clothing, or learn about volunteering, please call 917-418-2451 or email: davegolbert@yahoo.com

Together, we can make this little corner of the world a friendlier, more compassionate place.

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