Peta Madry has been working as the coordinator for the New London Meal Center for 15 years and takes pride in the work she has accomplished: “It’s not really so much about the cooking and the eating, lots of people are looking for help or want to have a conversation, there’s always something. That’s what’s hard with people not being able to come in.” She looks back on her experience at the center as she prepares to retire.
Each meal brings familiar and new faces to the center: “the crowd is generally the same, but we get new people all the time.” Despite the many differences and opinions the guests may have, the New London Meal Center’s main goal remains prevalent: “I want everything to be positive, everyone tends to know we don’t tolerate fighting or anything like that…..We’re all human beings, we all should be respected.” Peta works to create a comfortable and positive environment for everyone at the center and has faith that the positivity will continue after her retirement.
Peta has a history of helping her community and working with food. She began her culinary career at Cape Cod: “I’m really into vegan cooking, and there weren’t a lot of vegan or vegetarian restaurants around at the casino.” After six years, she moved back to Connecticut, working with Charlestown Ferry, which also had a connection with the local Fresh program, a local community garden, also volunteering as often as possible. Eventually, the New London Meal Center reported that one of the heads of staff will be leaving; Peta was encouraged to apply and was hired.
In terms of plans, there are still a few things Peta would like to see implemented at the center. “It’d be nice to have cooking classes. I think some of the people there don’t know how to cook, and maybe if they did know, they wouldn’t have to go in the first place.” The center’s main purpose is to help people in the community that may not have access to certain facilities; including cooking classes for guests could provide help outside the center itself.
“I think what I’ll miss most is the people,” Peta says. “I’ll miss the whole environment. It’s peaceful, even by myself, I enjoy being there.” After her retirement, she plans on continuing her volunteering at Coogan Farm in Mystic and is excited to see the growth of the New London Meal Center in her absence.