Last Night's Soup Run

by Despina Kartson

We learn so much from the guests we serve every month, including during last night's soup run. Serving more than 125 meals of lasagna and 120 sandwiches on a blustery evening in New York City, we spoke with guests who have a gentle and good spirit, who teach us so much about life, living and maintaining a light heart while at the same time, they do not have a permanent place to lay their head. When we asked one guest where she would be sleeping last night, she told us she'd be staying in a place without heat, electricity or water but was thankful to be indoors. We shook hands with some who remarked about how cold our hands were and wanted US to stay warm. We distributed several icon cards and talked with a gentleman who asked us to explain the meaning of the iconography and the Greek letters. Later in the evening, we saw him sharing the card with a woman. Some guests proudly showed us coats and bags they had previously received from us. A man whom we had not seen in a couple of months, explained that he was struggling and "under a storm." Our hearts and prayers are with each and every individual we meet.

Through the generosity of spirit of a growing number of supporters and volunteers, our monthly serving of those in need continues to expand. There are many to thank including: 

  1. Manny Louros and Zachary Karounos for preparing the meals

  2. Maria and Claudio Iaccarino (Park Place Bagels, Bronxville, NY) for 120 sandwiches and danish

  3. Homemade chocolate chip cookies made by Lucy Caviris  

  4. Minos Samoladas for his generous donation which enables us to purchase socks and underwear

  5. Maria Dikeos for 36 backpacks and messenger bags

  6. Margaret Luberda, Michael and the staff from the law firm Wilson Elser for six large bags of coats

  7. Despina Taiyanides and Emmy Kalmanides from St. George (Norwalk, CT) who donated bags of new fleeces, blankets, homemade koulourakia, chocolates and snacks

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. Be sure to support the Philoptochos "Hats & Gloves for the Homeless" sale on December 23rd where we hope to sell 100 sets of hand knit scarves, hats and gloves to take on the December 27th Soup Run. A very blessed and Merry Christmas to all. #PhiloStrong #bombas 

Last Night's Soup Run

by Despina Kartson

Our 115 guests on 33rd Street in Manhattan enjoyed the chicken souvlaki meal we served during last night's soup run. With the benefit of extra chicken from our recent Greek Festival, our chef prepared meals that included rice, vegetables, apples, coffee and hot chocolate. A few of our guests told us that they really appreciate our food and that it is always "the best".

With limited cars available to drive into the city, we pared down our clothing donations to those most necessary: socks, underwear, shoes and pants. Our two cars were packed with no room to see out of or to spare and we drove into the city to a large and welcoming crowd. Immediately, at least three men stepped out of line and helped us unload our cars and distribute some of the items.

As we often say, we enjoy talking with our guests and last night, one of our volunteers described his experience after a fun conversation with a group of men about sports:

It just felt great to talk with these guys and go back and forth about historic sports moments and current topics around the world. Robert, a man who I met for the first time today came up to me afterward and said how much he appreciated what we were doing. Words like these make you realize how much we mean to these men and women and I will do my best to make them feel the reciprocal... how much we appreciate them no matter the circumstances.

We are always grateful for the unending support of our volunteers and sponsors including The Fotiades family who sponsored last night's soup run, Manny Louros for preparing the meals, those who donated clothing and toiletries. A special thank you to Philoptochos who secured a generous donation of Bombas socks. Bombas is a sock company that has donated 8 million pairs to homeless shelters since launching in 2013. The company was founded to address the #1 most requested item in homeless shelters and for every pair purchased, Bombas donates a pair to someone in need.

We are also most appreciative of the efforts of many parishioners from Holy Trinity and friends in New York who come together every month to offer a listening ear and give their time to those in need.

The evening ended with a classic random act of kindness that we often experience. After we had driven a number of blocks and were stopped at a traffic light, a man in a car next to ours beeped, got our attention and told us that our car's trunk was open. He got out of his car, closed our trunk, waved and drove off - all in a New York minute!

We are accepting donations of new women and men's underwear, tee shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies. Tote bags and backpacks are always needed. Please join us on October 25.

Congratulations to our Ladies Philoptochos

Our Ladies Philoptochos was presented with an Award of Excellence for a two year 100% participation and commitment to the National Philoptochos ministries. Congratulations to our chapter!

Last Night's Soup Run

by Despina Kartson

Our guests were lined up and awaiting our arrival for last night’s soup run in Manhattan. They helped us set up tables and cleared a path on the sidewalk. There was an energy in the air that made for an enthusiastic crowd, anxious to see what we had to offer them.

We distributed more than 100 turkey sandwiches, snacks and lots of bottles of water- for which our guests were particularly appreciative on a hot summer night. While they liked the sandwiches, one guest asked when we were serving the lemon chicken for which we have become "famous"!

We distributed socks, always the number one requested item, men’s and women’s underwear, shirts, shoes and toiletry kits. It may have been a record night for speedy distribution - all clothing was gone within 20 minutes.

As we never know what to expect or what item we might be able to provide to our guests that is just a bit extra special, last night was no different. A gentleman lost his sunglasses during the soup run and was upset because he has a light sensitivity issue and needs to wear sunglasses to diffuse the light. As we were packing up to leave and heard the story of the lost glasses, one of our volunteers looked in their trunk where they had a number of supplies and found a brand new pair of sunglasses. When they gave them to the man in need, he was absolutely stunned, shook hands while expressing gratitude and left us saying “I will never forget you guys”. He was one of the many who thanked us and was happy to talk and share stories of the day.

We enjoyed the company of many volunteers including our friends from Prophet Elias in Yonkers, business colleagues from Manhattan and Brooklyn, and neighbors.

Our front-facing and behind the scenes volunteers, supporters and sponsors make the monthly soup run possible. Thank you to Joanne Jackson for sponsoring last night’s soup run, Minos Samoladas for his donation which has enabled us to purchase clothing throughout the year, Manny Louros for making the sandwiches, and the many other caring souls who donated new and gently used items. We could never fulfill this important ministry without these committed individuals and we sincerely thank them for their unwavering support. We are accepting donations of socks, t-shirts, boxers, women's underwear, toiletries, canvas bags/tote bags/backpacks and baseball caps.

Please join next month’s soup run on September 27. Happy Labor Day!

Last Night’s Soup Run

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.

Last Night’s Soup Run

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.

Last Night's Soup Run

by Despina Kartson

When we arrived at 33rd Street in Manhattan for last night's soup run, a long line of hungry souls was waiting for us. With the help of some of our guests, we unpacked our food and clothing, set up tables and began serving.

A few guests asked for a second meal - for themselves or for a friend who was in another location watching their belongings. We are always happy to provide as much food as anyone wants and try to feed everyone who is in need. Sadly, last night after all of the meals were distributed and we had packed our cars, a man approached and asked for food. All we had was a granola bar and a bottle of water, which he gladly accepted.

We met a number of new individuals as well as some whom we see every month. A Canadian tourist stopped by to talk and was so touched by our service that she joined us in distributing clothing. We heard more "God bless you" comments than usual from those we served, thanking us and expressing their gratitude. A man stopped by to learn about our ministry and said he runs a non-profit that helps homeless individuals get back on their feet by setting up P.O. boxes for them, providing cell phones and other items.

The monthly Soup Run is made possible through the compassionate and generous support from so many including this month's sponsors, Stephanos and Helen Alexiou, Minos Samoladas and the volunteers who work behind the scenes to make it all come together. Thank you to Manny Louros and Zachary Karounos for preparing the chicken, rice and vegetables and everyone who helped pack and transport the meals and a dozen bins of clothing and toiletry items.

We are collecting tote bags, canvas grocery bags and backpacks. Drop off new or gently used bags and we will distribute them next month on June 28th. Please join us.

Last Night' Soup Run - April 2018

The welcomed spring temperatures brought out many to Last Night's Soup run in Manhattan where we served more than 125 hungry and homeless. Pasta and meatballs were on the menu and some commented that they were the best they had ever eaten. One guest remembered our serving "Greek lasagna" and said that was his favorite meal!

When we arrived at our spot on 33rd Street, our guests were lined up all the way down the block. They patiently waited for us to set up our tables of food and clothing and were happy to receive a hot meal. One man asked for extra meals so that he could "get through the weekend". 

We witness a broad spectrum of personalities and actions from those we serve - some troubling, some heart-wrenching and some kind-hearted. Last night was no different. Some guests came back to us after taking a couple of clothing items and returned an item that they decided they didn't need so that someone else could have it. "Magic", telling us he wanted our area on the street to be left cleaner than when we arrived, was gathering up the empty food containers and throwing out the trash in garbage cans. Another man said he "heard about us two months ago" and was happy to finally meet us and enjoy our meal.

Sometimes we run out of food and clothing because we have served so many and other times an extra item seems to materialize out of nowhere just when it is needed. Last night, even though we served the last meal, guests kept approaching our tables asking for food. Thankfully, we at least had bagels, granola bars and fruit to give. And then, toward the end of the evening, a large man asked us for any clothing we might have for him. All of our bins were empty but one - it contained an extra large jacket and pants! That was all we had and it was meant for the man. We distributed a handful of remaining blankets when another guest said the only thing he needed was a blanket. One of our volunteers removed the clean moving blanket lining his car trunk and gave it to the man.

Talking with our guests and engaging them in conversation to learn about their lives, hear about their problems and simply listen when others may not are the simple things that our volunteers do that are so special. Deacon Simon and Seminarian Cornelius talked, laughed and listened to so many last night. 

Our amazing group of volunteers, supporters, and sponsors make the monthly soup run possible. Thank you to Cleo Canelos for sponsoring this month's soup run, Manny Louros and Kelly Sisco for preparing the meals, Minos Samoladas' monetary donation which enables us to purchase clothing, Peter Pappas for dozens of bagels, Deb Van Der Hayden for the clothing donations, the Philoptochos and the entire Holy Trinity, New Rochelle community for all that you do. Please join us on May 31.