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“We’re under a little bit of pressure here,” said Ruthie Stoltzfus, holding her thumb and forefinger close together.

But she still smiled as she stirred a soup pot of melted cheese that would be poured over 1,220 pounds of potatoes. Beside her, hovering around a 10-burner stove at the Refton Firehouse, four other volunteer cooks were preparing 268 pounds of glazed carrots.

Elsewhere across southeastern Pennsylvania, volunteers pulled brisket and chicken off of grills and out of smokers, on their homes and farms, doing what they could.

Collectively, these volunteers—which included 25 drivers who hauled trays loaded with food to The Worship Center in nearby Lancaster—managed to feed more than 1,000 eager Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteers and friends who attended the MDS Annual Celebration Dinner on Feb. 10.

Stoltzfus and the other cooks began at 8 a.m., finishing around 3:30 p.m. The key to managing the operation, she said, was to simply stay on it. “When they asked me to oversee this part of the cooking, I said, ‘Uhhhhhhhhhhh, sure,’ ” she said, “and it’s possible—it just takes management.”

She and the other cooks had all volunteered for MDS in the past—but they’ve never cooked for so many people. “It makes me so happy to volunteer—you can’t help but say ‘yes,’ “ she said.

The cooks exchange smiles and jokes as they work. “Well,” Sadie Stoltzfus said, “some potatoes are more cheesy than others—just like people!”

As volunteer drivers come to pick up the food, one of the trays tips, cascading a few cheesy potatoes down the steps. “That’s okay, spilled potatoes are a small disaster—and we are Mennonite Disaster Service,” said driver Dean Hertzler, adding: “I’ve been driving for MDS for years but I’ve never hauled food before.”

Later the cooks and drivers joined the dinner, where they were witnesses to the theme of the Annual Celebration: The Joy of Serving.

The food got excellent reviews. “If it’s good, it’s because God made it good,” said Ruthie Stoltzfus. “He gives us his blessings.”


Susan Kim, MDS writer. 

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