by Despina Kartson
We served 125 chicken cutlet and macaroni & cheese meals in New York City to the sound of live music and a block party just down the street during last night's soup run. The music provided an extra friendly backdrop to our conversations and the help that we provided to our guests.
When we arrived on 33rd Street, the line of people waiting for us went halfway down the block. Many of our guests patiently waited for us to set up food and clothing, while others helped us. One man said to another, "give the man a chance to give them out" in his effort to assist us with orderly distribution of clothing.
The first six meals we gave out were to a group rushing to make it to a homeless drop-in center for the night before their curfew. We reconnected with Judy, a lovely woman with an art history degree, whom we haven't seen in a year. Her partner, Richard, recently passed away from pancreatic cancer leaving her street homeless because she cannot afford the hotel room they had been staying in. Alone, with no family and lost without Richard, Judy was hoping to sleep on the steps of the Post Office last night near another woman she met at the soup run who said she'd look out for her. Judy talked to us about being chased out of a public bathroom yesterday while brushing her teeth and the constant demoralizing treatment she receives as someone who is homeless. The distinction our guests make when they talk about being "street homeless" is a stark reminder of their dire circumstances.
We also met a man who accepted a shirt in a size larger than he needed while we looked for one that was his size. He asked if he could hold on to it and then exchange it once we found his size, just to make sure that he had a clean shirt. When we found his size, he returned the larger shirt so that we could give it to someone else.
Those we serve and see on a regular basis have come to trust us. One of our volunteers told a man that she would bring him socks that Fr. Patrick went into the store to buy. When she brought the socks to him, another man said to him, “When she tells you she’s going to do something, she’s going to do it. She’s one of the flock." Did he mean "one of the flock" in the biblical sense or that our volunteer was one of them? Either way, we appreciated the comment.
Whether it's the volunteers who serve on the street, those who work behind the scenes to organize, or the many supporters within and outside the Holy Trinity community, the monthly soup run is a labor of love and compassion. We are grateful to so many, including the sponsors of last night's soup run, Peter Allen and Elena Stavrakas, Minos Samoladas for his donation, Manny Louros, Zachary Karounos and Kelly Sisco for cooking, Peter Pappas for bags of bagels and Fr. Patrick for his presence and purchase of socks and underwear. We will miss Fr. Patrick when he moves to Utah at the end of July. We know our guests will miss him too, particularly when you see the warm welcome he receives when a guest calls out to "Padre" as one did last night.
There are never enough sneakers, shoes, socks, underwear, backpacks or tote bags to go around. Any donations of these items are appreciated. Please join us next month on July 26th.