by Despina Kartson
During last night's soup run, we served 125 complete meals - turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, rolls, snacks and juice - to our guests in New York City who were waiting for us when our caravan of cars filled with 22 volunteers and an abundance of cold weather gear arrived on 33rd Street.
We connected with guests we serve regularly, met new people and missed those we have come to know over the years - wondering where they were. Much gratitude was expressed from so many, including the couple with five children ages 7-17. They were overwhelmed with appreciation when we gave them enough meals, hats, scarves and gloves for their children. With about 20 meals remaining, we went into Penn Station and distributed food, toiletries and clothing. In the train station, we met a man who had a bandage over his eye, was wearing dirty clothes and a thin jacket. He asked us where we were from and when we told him a Greek Orthodox church, he said he had always wanted to understand more about the Orthodox faith. Deacon Simon had an engaging conversation with the man and was impressed with his knowledge of religion.
As we were packing up and just about to leave, we noticed a man, Jose, settling in for the night on steps nearby. Jose had a grocery cart with a few personal belongings in them and a small blanket that he was pulling over him. We see many homeless on the soup run and throughout New York City who sleep on the street but it really struck us to see this man getting ready to spend a cold and breezy night outside. Racing back to our cars, we searched for any remaining blankets. Miraculously, there was one large afghan in a car. We put it on Jose and gave him a hat, scarf, gloves and toiletries. He thanked us. We were amazed that we had one last blanket to provide.
Our final amazing experience last night happened on the subway as one of our volunteers was distributing a few meals. After giving a meal to a woman, she handed him a note that said: "You are precious in God's eyes".
The soup run is a demonstration of love, compassion and commitment from the many volunteers and supporters who come together every month to share their time, talent and treasures. Our volunteers go above and beyond and last night was no different. One volunteer chose to spend her birthday serving the homeless instead of attending a celebratory dinner and another volunteer delivered bags of clothing even though it was the day after her father passed away. This month, we express thanks and gratitude to everyone involved and to the following:
Dennis Grammas from the Greentree Country Club in New Rochelle for donating the meals
Helen Hiotakis for sponsoring the soup run
Minos Samoladas for his generous donation which enables us to purchase much-needed socks and underwear
Amy and Mark of Mark Seiden Real Estate in Briarcliff Manor, NY for four large bags of coats from a neighborhood coat drive
Margaret Luberda and the staff from the law firm Wilson Elser for six large bags of coats
Deb van der Heyden for bags of new coats
Carmela Capobianco (Peter Caviris' mother-in-law) for a bag of new coats
The Holy Trinity Philoptochos Knitting for Charity group and the entire community for donating 120 hand-knit scarves and hats
Maria and Claudio Iaccarino of Bronxville's Park Place Bagels for hundreds of brownies, coffee cakes, socks, knit hats and scarves
Alexis Livanos for homemade Christmas cookies
Emmy Kalmanides from St. George (Norwalk, CT) homemade koulourakia, scarves and toothpaste
Tara Fappiano and Jacqui Stix from the Tuckahoe Middle/High School PTA and students for toiletry kits in hand-decorated bags
Georgianna Koulianos for toiletry kits
Kathy Caffentzis for thermal underwear
Athena Gregory for hand warmers
All are welcome to join the monthly Soup Run. In-kind donations, including warm clothing, hoodies and backpacks, as well as financial donations, are very much appreciated. Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and one that is filled with good health, joy and compassion. In the words of Maya Angelou: "The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God - if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That's what I think."