Temple Volunteers

Every Sunday, a group of volunteers prepares and serves a free vegetarian lunch for those who attend the Temple. 

By 9:30 on a Sunday morning, cars have nearly filled the parking lot at Phat-An. Inside, in the dining room, volunteers fill spring rolls and ladle sweet chè into Styrofoam cups for the free vegetarian lunch held every week. A few men help out – stirring and chopping in the kitchen, arranging fruit on platters – but mostly middle-aged women crowd around the tables, chatting in Vietnamese.

Phat-An Temple operates as a non-profit, supported completely by its volunteers. The Vietnamese Buddhist Association of Minnesota runs the temple, and consists of an advisory board – which makes policy decisions and ensures that Phat-An complies with state and federal laws – and an executive board – which implements the advisory board’s decisions and oversees the day-to-day operations of the Temple. Several of the Association’s board members, such as Quy and the president of the Association, have served for over twenty years.

Though volunteers no longer lead the Dharma talks and other services, as they did before the monks arrived, Quy explains that the Association still directs the overall functioning of the temple. She said that, in Vietnam, temples do not have to comply with complicated laws, and monks therefore do not deal with administrative or legal duties. “Our masters just are not very knowledgeable about the rules,” she explained. The Association therefore fundraises, plans the budget, and runs the Temple as before. The monks, says Quy, are therefore able to serve, uninhibited, the leadership roles with which they are familiar.

Outside of the Association, members of the Phat-An community donate money to support Phat-An’s monks, and to help buy the food for regular Sunday lunch (or for much larger celebrations). Member donations, of both time and money, enabled Phat-An to expand from its initial three-room space to its sprawling form today. In addition, volunteers teach the free Vietnamese language classes each week, and help run larger festivals and events throughout the year.