by Despina Kartson
Our dedicated group of 15 volunteers distributed 120 chicken dinners, coats and blankets to our guests on the street and in Penn Station during Last Night's Soup Run. The 13-degree temperature did not deter our serving because our guests still need to eat. We arrived at our spot on 33rd Street in Manhattan to a group who had assembled and was awaiting our arrival. Given the frigid weather, many of the homeless were not outside so we found them in Penn Station. The minute we began handing out meals, scarves and hats, others approached and we were able to feed a good number of hungry souls.
We talked with Stewart who was once homeless and now lives in Flushing. His rent is subsidized, he plays the harmonica on the subway and occasionally delivers flowers for a florist shop to cover food and other expenses. He likes to talk with our guests to demonstrate to them that they too can get off the streets. We met Steve, a self-described heroin addict, who told us he lives in a wood and cardboard structure he built on a sidewalk under scaffolding. As we were leaving Penn Station, a man approached us hustling for a quarter. When we said we only had food, he did a double take, smiled and said "right, you're the food people" - he had just seen us on the street! Many we served last night were particularly grateful, thanking us, saying God bless you and wishing us a Happy New Year.
At the end of the evening, we had several coats and toiletry kits remaining so we stopped by the Olivieri Drop-In Center, run by the Coalition for the Homeless, and offered the items to them. The Center, a storefront space with metal folding chairs and tables, was over capacity and turned away others who were looking for a place to sleep for the night while we were there. The Center Manager knew we were the group from New Rochelle because he has heard that we serve on Thursdays.
Our monthly Soup Run is a critical and compassionate outreach program that serves those who are less able than we are to provide for themselves some of life's necessities: food and clothing. We are immensely blessed with a community of volunteers and supporters who give generously of their time, treasures and talents. This month, we express thanks and gratitude to everyone involved, including:
Evan and Denise Graf for this month's sponsorship
Manny Louros for preparing the meals
Minos Samoladas for his generous donation which enables us to purchase much-needed socks and underwear
Alexandra and Richard Baudouin for new coats
Emmy Kalmanides for new and gently used men’s and women’s clothing and new women’s underwear
Susan Russon for hand warmers and hats
Alexandra King for 24 hand knit scarves
An anonymous donor who gave fleece blankets from the Proskauer law firm
Cathy Florakis for boots and sneakers
Constance and Georgeann Mavrovitis and Cynthia Herzegovitch for organizing the clothing and toiletries
All are welcome to join the monthly Soup Run. In-kind donations, including coats, warm clothing, hoodies and backpacks, as well as financial donations, are very much appreciated. Please join us on February 28.