The Sunday LOVE project
I want to feed the homeless. It's pretty simple. I am not affiliated with any type of organization, faith based or otherwise. A great man once said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." That is all I am trying to do. Through the help of volunteers and financial contributions, we can feed 200 people every Sunday for $300. Quality food for quality people who are going through a rough patch.
We served Loaded Pasta Salad, fruit cups, cookies, bananas, and water. Meghan Wright hooked us up with her famous egg and cheese sammies for Kensington. We served in two locations in Kensington, in addition to LOVE Park, and also sent 97 bagged lunches to Angels in Motion for their outing. This is the most food we have ever served in one day.
Thank you to all of our cooks and food contributors: Shannon Dougherty, Jocelyn Craighead, Erin Shine, Lois Mongeluzi, Brian Foedisch, Nicole Hess, ellyn Dvorin, Kris Gold, Andre Boreas, Colleen Daniel, Barbara Kueny, Carol Pasquarello, Ann Borell, Meghan Wright, and Arabella and Luca Oriti.
Thank you our onsite volunteers: Georgia Burns, Matt Weeks, Sorrell Daouphars, Linda Giminez, Andy Ungaro, Lindsey McCahill, Jocelyn Craighead, and Gerd Diewald.
Much gratitude to our kitchen staff: Nicole and Emma Hess, Jennifer Siegal, and Matt Weeks. They were super efficient and they knocked the meals out with an hour to spare before serving! It was beautiful!!
We had plenty of food so we loaded Jocelyn up with some extra meals for Kensington.Jocelyn and Gerd called me and said there wasn't a huge crowd at The Last Stop. I told them to go to Kensington and Somerset, if they were comfortable. Here is an exchange of their text conversation:
Gerd: "That was a whole other side of Kenzo you showed me today. Makes the last stop look like Disneyland in a way."
Jocelyn: "Yup, that's the side of Kenzo that's a hot topic on national news right now."
Gerd: "Thank you for taking me. It was eye opening."
On Wednesday this week, it's Aino's (Gerd's wife) birthday. Guess where they are going? Aino said she wants to distribute 49 meals on her 49th birthday, so that is where they are headed.
When I checked in with Gerd later on Sunday, he told me he will go there again and that he did not feel unsafe. He said it was just different to be amongst mostly active addicts.
LOVE Park moved smoothly and folks were in great moods. Slim and Melvin both showed up. I was getting pretty worried about both of them as they so seldomly miss a Sunday and it had been a month. Slim said he just couldn't get there. Melvin had been in the hospital. But they both looked great and Slim even brought Nia. I was so incredibly relieved. The volunteers were on point and we served 120 meals in under ten minutes. A few people showed up late and didn't get food but I was told there were a couple of other groups serving yesterday so I think everyone was fed eventually.
When I got home from LOVE, I realized how much food we had left. I still had tons of energy because it had been such an easy day of prep. I decided to plate the last 64 meals and head over to Kensington and Somerset. I cannot even begin to express how kind folks were: those receiving and those watching from the sidelines. One man kissed my hand and called me an angel. Another man pounded his heart twice and pointed to me. A woman driving by pulled over and gave me $10 toward our efforts. I spoke to Lisa who was on crutches and asked if she could take a meal for her daughter who just got out of the roundhouse. Another man told me he had a place to stay but no food for his kid. I gave him two platters but he only took one. He said he would share with his kid so someone else could eat.
On my way there, there was a man who had overdosed at the corner of Kensington and Lehigh. The ambulance had arrived and while I do not know the outcome, I did not have a good feeling. It felt too long before I saw the ambulance drive past me on the way to the hospital. Narcan works fast and this was a good 10 minutes. I hope I am wrong. White male, 20-30s.
So, while I have served at Somerset at least a half dozen times by now, this was different somehow. I don't know if it was the time of day, the weather, but whatever it was, there was nothing but LOVE. As I got into my car, a couple of guys rushed over to ask if there was more food. I told them it was gone. It occurred to me in that moment that there will NEVER be enough food.
For those of you who have been following my story with Jason, I received a letter from him today. Jason was picked up on a warrant the night we hung out, a few days after I met him at LOVE Park. Jason has given me permission to share anything he tells me. He understands that his experience could help others.
Jason wrote that after he left me, he went to Jefferson Station to check on a friend, and then to 30th Street Station to use the bathroom and get high. He had a pill bottle filled with 21 bags of heroin taped to his body. He had 3 bags and a needle in his hand in a stall when Amtrak police and a dog spotted him through the crack in the door. They kicked open the stall and shackled him to a bench. They never saw the pill bottle. Jason ditched it in the police bathroom and was then transported to jail. He sniffed the 15 bags of dope after he was incarcerated.
Jason told me he never bought into the Bible when he was in jail before. But he is changing that now. He has been reading The Proverbs and the Romans (12:21).
"Evil is trying to overcome the world, but you can overcome evil with good." He added that he knew I agreed with that.
I am not religious and I don't care how he gets there. As long as he gets there.
He continues: "It's funny how before I was in the real world and saw everything so negative. Now I'm surrounded by concrete, steel and criminals 24/7 and I see so many beautiful things, it's crazy. Clarity is a beautiful thing."
So yeah, this kid got to me. I have been in touch with his mom on a regular basis and she is a wonderful, supportive person. Sometimes we don't need an army of people. We just need a couple who truly care. I feel blessed I can be that for Jason.
Thank you to all who contributed this week. It was definitely one of the more positive days of LOVE for me. When adults are smiling and kids are laughing, there is nothing better. There is no place I would rather be.
People are always telling me they are sorry they haven't been out yet. I tell them it never occurs to me. But I do let them know that THEY are the ones missing out. I notice who IS there, not the ones who said they would be. Actions speak louder than words and we are definitely moving!
I love you all. Thank you for making this week so amazing. It's crazy that we served more people than ever yesterday and I don't feel like I did a thing. LOVE volunteers blow my little mind. xoxo
We served 230 meals between LOVE Park and Kensington. And another 70 bagged lunches for a group I adore, Angels in Motion, to distribute in Kensington. The meal was: BBQ chicken sammies, tater tots/corn, fruit cups, bananas, ice cream sandwiches/cookies, and water. And one of our volunteers even made 50 bags of popcorn. That is LOVE! 50 of those meals came from Meghan Wright at The Abbaye who sent her coveted egg and cheese sammies to Kensington. Thank you, Meghan! You never disappoint.
We decided to serve simultaneously at both locations. We don't have many more hot meals before the weather gets too warm, but while we do, we want to ensure that happens. Kensington was getting shafted because we never go there first. We have now rectified that situation.
Thank you to Jocelyn Craighead and Gerd Diewald for running the show over there! All reports were positive and the food seemed to fly. Also, The Last Stop building has been sold so we will be moving to the new location at Kensington and Somerset in July. It's a rougher neck of the woods but there is even more of a need on the other side of Lehigh. I am looking forward to the new location.
Thank you to all our cooks and food contributors: Jocelyn Craighead, Shannon Dougherty, Megan McLaughlin, Annie Eustace, Sorrell Daouphars, Lois Mongeluzi, Ryan Solimeo, Mark Jennings, Erica Alimario, Jo Buyske, Roberta Riccio, Jennifer Stueve, Linda Giminez (popcorn!), Meredith Goldstein, Carol Zacney, and Colleen Daniel.
Thank you to our onsite volunteers: John and Boyden Gardner, Soozun and Robert Rankin, Ger Ronan, Jay Mallett, Tom Becker, Kim and Anthony Maffei, Linda Giminez, Andy Ungaro, and Macy Pedersen.
We also distributed 100 hygiene bags…in about five minutes. Please keep the supplies coming because the need is endless!
Thank you to Katherine Cohen Jordan and Lenin for helping to prepare the peanut butter and jelly sammies and snack bags for Angels in Motion. If you want to get your kids involved, we make sammies on Saturdays, so please contact me for details. This is the perfect outreach for younger kids.
Thank you to Ann Borell, Mary Conricode, and the students of Nativity of Our Lord School for making the BEST cards to go into the aforementioned snack and hygiene bags. This is another thing we need weekly, so please let me know if you would like to help out!
Much love to Barbara Mishkin from "The Inspiration Project" for the cards we attached to the sandwich bags going to Kensington. Words have power. A positive message can make all the difference in the world.
Thank you to Jen Gallagher for the clothing donation. Everything disappeared within minutes of hitting the table. So appreciated.
Much gratitude to Jackie, a junior reporter at "Good Day Philadelphia" (Fox 29) for coming out to film us and tell our story. Please check the website in the next couple of weeks for air date, which has not yet been announced.
When one of our regular guests (whom I have known for two years) asked about the camera, I explained what it was all about. This woman is notoriously surly. I told her the reporter was out to interview us and some of our guests so she could highlight the good in the community and spread the word about LOVE. She processed for a moment and then said, "Well, you all deserve it because you are doing so much out here. I like to see people being recognized for their good hearts." I nearly fell over. I told her it was less about the recognition for us and more about bringing attention to the severity of the homeless population in Philly. She agreed that was important. Every now and then, someone blows your mind out there. Once upon a time, this woman was a therapist.
Some fun LOVE news: We got a Sunday kitchen! The kitchen is located inside of Holy Trinity Church at 19th and Walnut. I am so grateful to Jim Gatch for introducing me to the pastor, John Gardner. John has been out to serve twice and brought his son and members of the church yesterday. I am beyond excited for the opportunity for the volunteers to cook in one place. This will make it so much easier to add additional locations to serve in the future. I am very thankful to the board members and the church members for their belief and support in LOVE. We should be starting there next week!
Our backpack drive should be kicking off soon so please check sundaylove.org for more details. We are collecting 200 backpacks for those in need. There will be a suggested backpack, with a link to purchase, on our site soon. We will then fill each bag with hygiene products and distribute.
If you would like to donate products, we need them! Donations toward the cause are always welcome, as well.
If you haven't been out to serve with us yet, get yourself out there! It's super fun and only about a 20-30 minute time commitment. I can guarantee you will walk away with some level of enlightenment. We love PRESENCE.
Thank you to all who contributed this week to another amazing LOVE story.
Thank you to our cooks and food contributors: Ryan Solimeo, Mark Jennings, Jocelyn Craighead, Mia Diewald, Roberta Riccio, Megan McLaughlin, Amy Smith-Sweeney, Michelle Webb, Shannon Dougherty, Jo Buyske, Annie Eustace, Jennifer Connolly, Linda Giminez, Carol Pasquarello, Kim Maffei, and Colleen Daniel.
Thank you to our onsite volunteers: Jocelyn Craighead (special shoutout for taking over Kensington today), Aino Assmus, Gerd Diewald, Linda Giminez, Andrew Ungaro, Ger Ronan, Melvin, and Georgia Burns.
I appreciate you all more than you will ever know.
Much gratitude to Danaka Anderson for the underwear donation, Ryan Solimeo for the clothing, and Amy Steel for the sneakers. All clothing disappeared at lightening speed. Melvin's coat was stolen today and we were able to replace it. Thank you to whomever made that possible!
I had technical difficulty with the speaker so music was a bust, but folks seemed to be in fairly good moods today.
I was a bit concerned that Slim didn't show up, as he never misses a Sunday. Hoping he is okay.
Everything flowed very easily today. I love all volunteers but the ones who have been out a few times make things so much easier. It is so awesome to see the volunteers forming relationships with those on the other side of the line.
I told Miss Diane, one of our regular guests, that people always comment on her when I post pictures of her online. I asked Ger to take a picture of the two of us because, "Miss Diane is making me famous!" She got a good giggle out of that. I love that woman. I forgive her for doing that weird palm to my forehead prayer thing. I know her heart is in the right place. Every week she tells me that God will bless me. I just smile. Not because I don't believe in God, but because I have already been blessed. Every day and twice on Sunday.
We met Jason today. He is an active addict who was refreshingly honest. I could feel his heart so I asked him if he hung out in Kensington, because those are the folks I relate to the most. He was very wary of me at first and thought it odd that I asked his name. I told him I just like to know who I am talking to. He was concerned I worked in the judicial system. Once assured, I certainly do not, he opened up. Jason told me he tried to act like a thug once he was on the street but soon learned it's just not his style. He is far too nice. So nice, in fact, that he told me he made a friend who was withdrawing so he offered him his dope so he wouldn't be sick. There is something so profoundly distorted and beautiful about this. Addicts do not offer their drugs to others without strings. Though he acknowledged he knew it sounded weird, he also said he just wanted to be a friend. The guy would later rip him off because drugs…
He told me he wrote poetry and recited some of his words. They were about heroin and all the things he has learned in between at 12 step meetings. He said nothing is lost on him. When I heard his words, I understood that. I have been a writer all my life and even took it to a college degree that proved mostly useless. But I know decent poetry. This guy blew my doors off. Jason wants to get clean. He is 33 and has been using nonstop for 6 years. He said he is tired. He said he could stay at his mom's where he is wanted but doesn't feel right shooting dope in her bathroom. There is something special about this one. There is something special about ALL of them.
The end of my day result in coming across Will on my way to deliver some hygiene stuff to The Last Stop. You may remember Will from a prior update. He was the only addict I have ever met who said he knew he would be hooked the first time he tried heroin, and he was okay with that. He was SO excited to see me. He started to ask me for money for a bus token but quickly caught himself, realizing that would never happen. I told him he is breaking my heart. He told me no one understands artists. I told him I get the artist part but not the heroin part. He blew me a kiss and we parted ways.
There is so much that needs to be said, needs to be done. There is no place on earth I would rather be than where I find myself every Sunday.
Thank you to all who contributed this week. Y'all make such a significant difference, even one day a week. In my next life, just around the corner, we will be doing this at least three days a week. Stay tuned…I am about to marry Sunday LOVE.
Love you all to bits and pieces! Much LOVE. xoxo
We served 80 meals at LOVE Park: Stew (beef/lamb), biscuits, fruit cups, cookies, bananas, and water.
In Kensington, we served 50 hot egg and cheese sammies, (complements of Meghan Wright and Chase Fidiam), fruit cups, and water.
Thank you to our cooks and food contributors: Jocelyn Craighead, Jo Buyske, Lois Mongeluzi, Megan McLaughlin, Amy Smith-Sweeney, Erica Vanstone, Carol Pasquarello, and Shannon Dougherty.
Thank you to Ger Ronan and Melvin for volunteering at LOVE. Thank you to Jocelyn for taking on Kensington herself today.
There seems to be no rhyme or reason for the volunteer turnout but it is very much a feast or famine situation. We certainly could have used more hands on deck today, but it worked. It always does.
LOVE Park was a tiny bit chaotic. While our line was moving, a couple drove up and started handing out WAWA gift cards so things got a little crazy for a minute. All resumed normal once they drove away.
Folks really loved the food today and almost everyone was in a good mood.
I was gifted a Sharkk speaker by Freddie Coots, and I brought that out today. Thank you to Erica Vanstone for hooking up the tunes! People were dancing and singing. People were genuinely enjoying themselves. A song by The O'Jays came on and everyone had a story about the first time they heard them or that they went to school with someone in the band or saw them play a concert…
It was SO cool! I realized that, in addition to food, music also evokes some pretty amazing memories. We will definitely include the tunes for an impromptu dance party EVERY week from here on out!
Andrew came out to say "hello". He is our guy who found housing for his wife and daughter, close to Trenton. He is still working in Philly and I was so pleased he stopped by to let me know how he was doing. He said the apartment is small but he is grateful to have a place where his family can be together. He is motivated to save money and get a better place. We agreed these are just stepping stones. His attitude remains positive, always.
Slim gave me a $10 handshake. His total is now $40.
Slim brought Nia out to hang with us. She was a little pouty because someone stole her candy but wouldn't you know I had some Twix bars in my car? Easy fix. (I am not really sure there is anything NOT in that car).
Thank you to Christine Gallagher for donating a few hygiene bags. It was the perfect amount. Only five guys asked for them and that is exactly what I had.
The report from Jocelyn in Kensington was: There were renovations going on at The Last Stop so the gate was down and there weren't a lot of people around. Some guys came out to eat and she took care of the folks on the street but she took the last 20 sammies to The Brotherhood Mission. I am sure they were thrilled, as they always are. That place is so sad and downtrodden. I appreciate what they do but I am instantly depressed when I walk in there. I don't get that sense of camaraderie I always feel at The Last Stop.
Side note: There was a piece on NPR this morning about how desperately underwear is needed at The Sunday Breakfast Mission in Philly. They try to provide everyone who comes in with a week's worth of underwear. They are having problems getting it because people feel some sort of way about purchasing undergarments. But, if you would like to help, they are in need of size small-XL.
We will soon be ordering $5,000 worth of underwear for our folks on the street very soon. Thank you to Jack Cooper for raising the funds to make that happen! I am sure we will share the underwear wealth with Sunday Breakfast. Underwear EVERYWHERE!
Backpack drive should be starting soon, so please check sundaylove.org periodically for updates.
Thank you to all who volunteered this week. You are AMAZING!
Much LOVE. xoxo
One last thing…not only does Ger Ronan drive from Massachusetts to volunteer almost every week, but he was there today ON HIS BIRTHDAY! He didn't want to announce it so I am taking care of that for him:) Love you, Ger!
It is so amazing that you do what you do-every weekend. If there ever was such a thing as an angelic being working in this world to remove suffering, it's you.
How many comforters in what size. We also have towels , jackets etc and sneakers. Shoes may fit children or women who have smaller feet.