by Despina Kartson
The weather was perfect, the crowd was plentiful and our volunteers were happy to serve our guests on 33rd Street in Manhattan during last night's soup run. We distributed turkey sandwiches, chips, fruit, lots of cold water, juice and coffee. We also gave out clothing items including socks, men's and women's underwear, shirts and toiletry kits. While we thought we had a large supply of clothing, it seemed to be distributed in record time last night.
Arriving at our spot and unloading our cars, we were immediately assisted by one of our guests who helped us unfold the tables. As we greeted our guests, who were lined up on the sidewalk, we asked them to wait a few minutes longer while we set up the food and clothing. They smiled, told us they were happy to wait and that they had been there for some time, anticipating our arrival.
We talked with Wendy, one of our recent regulars, who was splitting half of the food and toiletries we had given her into another bag so that she could take them to a woman who sleeps on the steps of Church of St. Francis of Assisi nearby. We gladly gave Wendy more food and toiletries to take to the woman. Wendy said she is not homeless - she sleeps in her sister's living room after losing her job and apartment. She doesn't have enough money for food and is happy to be able to sleep indoors. There are different definitions of "homeless" - how many of us would not consider ourselves homeless if we slept in someone's living room?
We never know what we might encounter during our monthly soup run and often something unexpected happens. Last night, one of our volunteers, Arturo, went into the bathroom at a nearby restaurant. He found an elderly man on the floor, bleeding while another man went about his business seemingly oblivious to the injured man. Arturo called 911 and waited for EMS to arrive.
Our monthly outreach is made possible through the compassion of so many supporters and volunteers. Thank you to Jim and Patricia Mikelis for sponsoring last night's soup run and to the many volunteers who give so generously of their time, talent and treasures: Manny Louros and Zachary Karounos for preparing the sandwiches, Georgeann Mavrovitis for preparing bins of toiletry kits, Kathleen Haverlack Wasser for donating women's toiletry sets, Tammy Mangan for bananas, and Constance Mavrovitis and Cynthia Herzegovitch for organizing the clothing bins.
When we reminded one of our guests that we would be back on August 30th, he told us that was a good day for him because his government check will arrive on August 31st and by the end of the month, he will be out of money and unable to buy food. This is why our soup run is at the end of every month - those who receive a government check stretch it as much as they can but the money rarely lasts all month. Donations of socks, underwear, summer clothing, toiletries (save hotel shampoo and soap from your summer vacations!) backpacks/tote bags and re-usable grocery bags are always needed. Please join us on August 30th.