Plates of Compassion

By Sofija Chroneos

For years, vulnerable women across Boston have left Women’s Lunch Place with the warmth of fresh food filling their bellies. Food is clarity of mind, the energy these women need to keep up the fight.

Women’s Lunch Place (WLP) opened in November of 1982. It’s a safe space, serving women hot lunch three times a week. The kitchen staff at Women’s Lunch Place keep a running tally of plates served during each meal.

Statistics are important for business, yes, but the numbers also represent exchanges of compassion. With each plate comes a smile and sweet remark, a glimmer in the eye and a laugh.  

These are the small yet profound exchanges that inspired Ilse Wauters to volunteer at Women’s Lunch Place.


To Ilse, WLP is a way to connect with people. After immigrating to Boston from Belgium in 2015, Ilse wanted to bring new perspectives to her everyday life. “Shelters provide engaging work for the people who need it most,” Ilse said. 

Women’s Lunch Place is colored in good will, where the mundane washes away. There is clarity of spirit and openness of hearts. It’s more than just a shelter. It’s a home where everyone is treated with dignity. At WLP, no one is homeless. No one is insignificant. Each visitor is beautiful, a welcome guest.

Michelle Li, a freshman at Boston University, is motivated by the shelter’s vision for female empowerment. For Michelle, WLP is a great place to learn about people, and nothing is better than the face-to-face interaction she experiences as a kitchen volunteer.

The multitude of Chinese immigrants who frequent Women’s Lunch Place remind Michelle of her own mother, who immigrated to Boston without knowing English. At WLP, Michelle formed strong bonds with stronger people, whose smiles shined through hardship.

Women’s Lunch Place is a space for human connection. The shelter is proof that kindness, once given, will never stop traveling from person to person. Pay it forward. I hope to see this kindheartedness, in all of its beauty, leak outside of Women’s Lunch Place. I hope there will be no more need to count plates.

Interested in volunteering?


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