Volunteer Day: BEST Mock Banquet

The tables were set. The napkins folded into perfect snail-like spirals. The guests were seated, and the wine was poured. A sumptuous three-course meal was served. Well, the wine bottles were empty, and the food was one-dimensional and paper-thin. But for the 19 students of BEST Hospitality completing their training in banquet service, the exercise was very real – it was the first time they had ever served real people, among them a dozen TPC members and their friends. According to Joan Abbot, Assistant Director, our first organized Volunteer Day was a resounding success as the soon-to-be graduates were able to apply the lessons learned as they worked to improve skills that will propel them to meaningful, well-paid work in the hospitality industry. Some students served while others sat at tables with TPC members before switching places for the “second seating.” It was especially meaningful to have an opportunity to talk with the students and to hear their stories and learn about their very varied backgrounds and ambitions. One TPC guest noted that she spoke with men and women from Ghana, Morocco, Mexico, and Ecuador.

We received terrific feedback from Joan, who will be speaking at our January 16 Dialogue:

“Someone asked for VEGAN!”

That was one of the great student “panic” quotes from the evening. Joan told us that the students were SO stretched, tested, and nervous. It was truly the best way to expose them to the types of questions and situations they’ll face on the job.

“Someone took my tray!” 

“I got so nervous I forgot the name of the drinks!” 

“Someone asked for butter!!!”

In between the first and second seatings, we were ushered into a conference room where we were shown a section (about the 35th minute) of a video that featured a young woman who had graduated from BEST’s job seeker program. The entire video will give you a sense of the breadth and depth of BEST’s work with those who come, eager to learn.

  • How could we sit at a table with four non-native English speakers, some arriving in the US less than a year ago, yet be able to communicate easily? BEST offers ESL training.
  • How could the young woman in that video talk about being excited to enter into the housing market, something she never dreamed she’d be able to do? BEST taught her the skills she’d need to get a quality job in one of Boston’s high-end hotels.
  • Citizenship training? CPR training? Food safety training? Microsoft Office classes? Help with getting your GED? Check, check, check, check, check.

BEST’s educational opportunities allow for students to enter the workforce and excel in their professional and personal lives.

Rounding out the experience, we were asked to provide written evaluations for the servers with whom we interacted. Joan told us that these evaluations are helpful for correcting any last-minute issues and, most importantly, they give the students a feeling of accomplishment. The feedback Joan received from students was that, nerves aside, they felt they had made new friends by the end of the evening.

We are really excited about the success of the evening and grateful for those members who took the time out of their packed schedules to participate. We also want to thank Ruth Isaacs, who orchestrated this evening and has graciously offered to coordinate future TPC Volunteer Days. There will be several more opportunities for members to donate their time and particular talents and experience to our grantees in the coming year. We hope you’re excited for what’s coming next. If you have ideas for potential volunteer opportunities, you can get in touch with Ruth at ruth@firstjobhelp.com.