Jon Winkler / Lowell Sun
Jon Winkler / Lowell Sun
AYER —It’s 4 p.m. on a blazing-hot Friday afternoon and Cyndi Lavin is setting up dinner at the Living Water Fellowship. It’s a well-balanced meal: some fruit, salad, cookies and a pizza on the way. Though all of that is not for her, it’s for those less-fortunate looking for a hot meal and a friendly connection.
“When you’ve been as blessed as I’ve been, you have to give back,” Lavin said last week. “I don’t have access to kings or presidents, but I have my own sphere of access and a sphere of creativity that God gave to me to serve. I believe I’m a servant to the most-high God.”
Lavin’s belief has led her to serve meals to her community in three different ways over the last month: first at the Apple Valley Baptist Church on Columbia Street, then out of the trunk of her own car and now at the Living Water Fellowship at 41 Littleton Road.
Lavin had been volunteering at Apple Valley for six years before it closed down last month after the Board of Health sent a letter to the church stating that the kitchen had to be brought up to the current town health code, and that anyone preparing meals had to be certified. The church is suspending the soup kitchen offering until its kitchen is renovated.
This threw Lavin for a bit of a loop as she cared very much for the people she served food to at Apple Valley, and there was no sign of a replacement for the church’s soup kitchen.
So the week after Apple Valley’s kitchen closed, Lavin started offering meals donated from local restaurants out of the back of her car in the Town Hall parking lot. She even walked through downtown Ayer to let the frequent visitors of Apple Valley’s kitchen know that meals were still available to them.
“I love the people who came to our meals,” Lavin said. “Some are lonely, some are down on their luck, some are homeless. It’s a steady group of people that I’ve gotten to know over the years and loved. I can’t abandon people that I love. That love comes from God and I wouldn’t be able to do this without him.”
Lavin remembers the people she’s served with surprising detail. She thought about one man, who she referred to as “Dave,” who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, yet noted how there was “nobody who was more lovely than him.” Lavin then thought about a man she referred to as “Ted,” who she always greeted by first name.
“He said, ‘How do you know my name?’ and I said, ‘Because I love you,'” she said. “Sometimes it’s just life that happened to them.
Some people don’t realize how precarious life can be. I have a very non-judgmental attitude when sitting with them.”
It’s not uncommon for Lavin to be charitable with her time.
She is the secretary of the Ayer Library Board of Trustees while previously leading programs for the Boys and Girls Club of Hudson and a YMCA at the old Fort Devens.
“I did more things that weren’t necessarily organized,” she said. “They were things that came up that needed to be done.”
For now, Living Water will host the soup kitchen every Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. until it goes back to Apple Valley when its kitchen reopens. Wherever it may be, Lavin will still be offering a helping hand to the kitchen when needed.
“People are pitching in throughout the community,” she said. “I’m just the one who’s been able to rally to do this. It’s about giving other people a chance to serve.”
Jon Winkler: MrJW595 on Twitter