by Despina Kartson
During Last Night's Soup Run, when we had a smaller crowd than usual and were concerned about where we would find 125 hungry souls to feed, we had a number of remarkable experiences. Our usual large group was not waiting for us on 33rd Street - likely due to our change in schedule from the last Thursday of the month to this week.
Our amazing volunteers were not deterred by the small group. We set up tables, organized the pasta meals, 15 bins of clothing, shoes and toiletries. We put the word out, walked to a couple of areas where our guests typically congregate and went into Penn Station. Within seconds of entering Penn Station and after giving out the first meal, we were surrounded by people asking for food. They were grateful, thanked us and wished us a happy Easter.
Sitting on the floor, off to the side in a crowded area of the Station and surrounded by bags of empty bottles and cans, we spotted Martin. We approached him and offered a meal and a toiletry kit. Martin was so happy to see us - he stood up, began organizing his few belongings and some of the bottles that had spilled out of his bags. We talked with him for a long time and were touched by his dignity, spirituality and the gentleness of his soul. As we were leaving, he asked us to pray with him, held our hands and led us in a beautiful prayer. Martin's words will ring in our ears for a long time: "I am by myself every day but I am never alone."
Back on 33rd Street, we gathered a few bags of meals, underwear, toiletry kits and cups of hot chocolate and walked to a nearby New York City drop-in center. The center is a room with tables and metal chairs where homeless can sleep, on folding chairs, overnight. Within minutes, we distributed all that we had and many were telling us they were hungry and asked if we had more meals. Some said they hadn't eaten all day, others said they assumed they wouldn't be eating dinner as they were checking into the drop-in center for the night. We promised to return with more food. Adam, who is recently homeless after years of incarceration and a failed personal relationship, walked with us to make sure that he could get a meal. We gave him the remaining 10 meals we had so that he could give them to the others. He expressed his gratitude and said he was a bit overwhelmed by our kindness.
Thank you to the many in our community and beyond who so generously support, through their actions and their offerings, the mission of the Soup Run. This month's outreach was made extra special by:
Linda Ficano for her sponsorship
Manny Louros and Zachary Karounos for preparing the meals
Minos Samoladas for his donation which enables us to purchase much-needed socks and underwear
Fr. Harry Pappas and a group from Archangels Greek Orthodox Church (Stamford, CT)
May Vlachos (St. George NYC) for preparing the Mental Health Clinic guide and including the Soup Run dates and donating sandwiches from her school in Queens
Constance and Georgeann Mavrovitis and Cynthia Herzegovitch for organizing the clothing and toiletries
The Philoptochos and the Holy Trinity, New Rochelle, community
One of our guests, Carmello, told us: "People ask what love is. THIS is love." Please join us next month, on May 30th, to spread the love. A blessed Easter to all.