Brien McPadden
Brien McPadden (right), account executive at EBP Supply Solutions, is joined with fellow "mobile kitchen" volunteers

Brien McPadden drives a "mobile kitchen" truck on Tuesday nights — before COVID-19 hit, that is — to feed hungry and needy people, and to be present for them as a friend.

Brien, an account executive for EBP Supply Solutions in Milford, Connecticut, got involved with Bridgeport Rescue Mission, which serves meals to impoverished inner city areas, about six years ago. At the time, he was the only male volunteer.

"On any given night, we serve around 100 meals," says Brien. "That number doubled when the pandemic hit. Most of the people we serve are from the housing projects and are having a hard time making ends meet. About 25 percent of the people we serve are homeless."

During their shifts, Brien and other volunteers drive to their assigned housing project and park on the corner. People know they can come and get a hot meal, and they can also get groceries.

"The first thing that surprised me was the number of children involved. Sometimes the parents send the kids down to pick up food. Other times we see 12- and 13-year-olds who are responsible for making sure their younger siblings get fed," says Brien. "The poverty is generational."

The kids get more than just food. Donated winter clothing is also handed out, which is a big help since winters in Connecticut can be rough. "The people in the projects have been hit really hard by the pandemic. Personally, I don't believe the people in the neighborhoods are more prone to contract COVID-19 than anyone else is, so when others stopped driving the mobile kitchens, I picked up extra shifts," says Brien.

Unfortunately, the pandemic eventually slowed Brien down, too. The Mission food trucks have now been put on a hiatus due to the virus, and as of this writing, they haven't opened up again.

"I used to spend time with the kids and the people who came to get food and I miss them," says Brien. "When the Mission says they'll send the food trucks out again on Tuesday nights, I'll definitely be on board."

Being on the truck gives Brien a good perspective on life.

"I was complaining about something the other day and then I thought, 'I need to get back on the truck again,'" he says. "The best three hours of my week are the ones I spend on the Mission food truck. It really keeps me grounded."

Gretchen Roufs, a 25-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns a marketing and public relations company in San Antonio. To suggest someone you think should be featured in "Freetime," contact her at