MADISON, Wis. --
A Madison firefighter is serving up life lessons of compassion along with dinner.
Randy Prude, an 18-year-veteran of the Madison Fire Department, is used to cooking for fellow firefighters at Station 11. Every other month, he also dishes up dinner for the city's homeless population, WISC-TV reported.
"You get used to cooking for large numbers and the guys around the station don't eat like anyone else, each one eats like two people," laughed Prude.
On Tuesday, Prude spent seven hours preparing meatloaf, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, corn and cake for 120 men at the shelter.
"Everything he cooks is with love," said one Station 11 firefighter.
"It's important to reach out," said Prude. "These people have fallen and stumbled in life in some way or for some reason. It's important to reach out a hand and help them back up and put them back on track."
The food that he cooks is all donated, mostly from Madison firefighters. Grocery stores like Cub Foods, Woodman's, and Willy Street Co-op also donate items, WISC-TV reported.
He cooks the meal in the kitchen of Station 11. He said that once he made the mistake of trying to prepare the meal from home.
"It was a disaster zone when I got done," said Prude. "There were pots and pans everywhere, spaghetti sauce splashed everywhere."
He recommended that anyone thinking of cooking the meal look into using a larger kitchen, such as one in a church.
But he said that no matter how it's done, the meal and effort that goes into it is important to those men.
One shelter resident, David, said that homemade meals like Prude's are very much appreciated.
"There are people here that virtually go from place to place to various places in the city that do offer, but even at that they don't always get three meals a day," he said.
"It's a story that could happen to anybody," said Prude. "By grace and mercy we're all what we are. It's not by our own doing that we've achieved the greatness we have."
His compassion comes naturally. Prude's father is a minister in Beloit, who has run a hot-meal program from the church for years. He also organizes the Coats For Kids drive among the entire fire department, WISC-TV reported.
"This man gets us all involved," said one Station 9 firefighter, who came to help Prude serve dinner at the shelter on Tuesday.
Prude said that he's just an ordinary person with the inner drive to help. He hopes his story will let other ordinary people know they too can make a difference.
"It's not so much of a thank you kind of a thing," said Prude. "The thank you is not important. It's more important that you know that you're reaching out to help someone and trying to make a difference in someone's life."
Prude's firefighter dinner is organized through Porchlight, Inc.