Volunteer Ed Bush is Sophia’s Kitchen’s first Golden Sandwich Award recipient

Ed Bush holds his one-of-a-kind Golden Sandwich Award as he stands with Claire Crone, director of Sophia's Kitchen in Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Ed Bush calls himself a “jack of all trades,” but the faithful volunteer at Sophia’s Kitchen in Peoria added another title over the summer when he became the first recipient of the program’s Golden Sandwich Award.

Claire Crone, director of Sophia’s Kitchen, said the award was created to honor the volunteer who served the most hours during the previous year. The maximum number of hours possible at one four-hour shift each week was 204 hours.

Bush gave 194.

Ed Bush packs lunch bags at Sophia’s Kitchen during his regular Tuesday morning shift. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“I enjoy helping to feed the people,” he told The Catholic Post. “I work the window a lot and when people come up I say, ‘OK, what’s the good word for the day?’ or something like that. I try to take their mind off of the environment they’ve been in and put a smile on their face.”

He also cajoles them into taking an apple or banana when the fruit is available by saying, “Don’t forget, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Bush has been doing that since 2010, when the Sacred Heart Sandwich Program moved to the parish hall of St. Joseph Church at 103 S. Richard Pryor Place. He works from 8 a.m. to noon on Tuesday and always shows up for his shift, according to Crone.

“Ed is very precise in making sure things are done the way they should be done,” she said. “The volunteers deal with a lot of different personalities, different people, and different menus. That means they have to be able to switch between different meals.”

Following Bush isn’t easy as he goes from making coffee, to setting up juice, to loading lunch bags, to distributing meals and words of encouragement at the window for hundreds of people.

DOING WHAT JESUS WANTS

Bush grew up in Pekin and attended St. Joseph School and Pekin High School. He went on to Illinois Central College to study data processing.

A small loan teller, computer operator, programmer and analyst at a Peoria bank, he also worked as a programmer for CILCO for 15 years before retiring in 1996. Bush took up wedding photography next, which kept him busy for 16 years, until an injury made it difficult for him to drive.

He is able to volunteer at Sophia’s Kitchen thanks to other members of the shift who make certain he has a ride every week. It allows him to do what he always enjoyed — meeting and getting to interact with a lot of people.

Bush and his wife, Margie,  have three grown children — a daughter and two sons — and one grandchild. They have lived in Peoria for 37 years and now make their spiritual home at St. Joseph Church, where Bush serves as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion for Saturday evening Masses.

Being on his feet for four hours every Tuesday morning can be tiring, but the other volunteers “make the job a lot easier. Everyone pitches in to help.”

That includes Father Jim Pankiewicz, parochial vicar for the four parishes in the Heart of Peoria Catholic Community, who is at Sophia’s Kitchen almost every day, Bush said.

“Father Jim is just a great guy to work with,” he said.

Bush remains humbled by the award, which took him by surprise.

“I just wanted to do what Jesus would want us to do,” he said, “feeding the people who come to the window for food and a smile to make their day.”

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