Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Archive for August, 2013|Monthly archive page

Working for My Welfare

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive on August 30, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I am a participant in New York City’s Work Experience Program, which requires welfare recipients to work for their monthly checks and food stamps. I am fifty-year-old divorced man with five dependent children I want to support. I am ready and willing to work. I think the city’s program is basically fair, though it has some problems that need to be ironed out.

I have had full-time jobs for more than thirty-five years, earning as much as forty-seven thousand dollars a year. I have been an employment interviewer for the New Jersey Department of Labor, a controlroom operator for the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission, and an employment counselor at a private school in Manhattan.

But my life took an unfortunate turn after a serious back injury. I lost a job I loved – the one with the New Jersey labor department. I ended up on drugs and in a homeless shelter. I regret that chain of events, but with the help of my church, counseling, and a writing workshop, I quit cold turkey and have been clean for three years. I rent a room in a brownstone in Brooklyn and receive $256 a month in welfare and food stamps.

I do not want to be an anonymous welfare statistic. I want more than anything to earn an honest living again, perhaps as a coordinator of church-related community programs. I have a lot to offer.

Looking for a decent job, I sent out many resumes, but got no response. In February, the Work Experience Program assigned me and about thirty other welfare recipients between the ages of twenty and sixty to a sanitation garage in Brooklyn.

The first day, I was given a broom and a dustpan and told I would be putting in sixteen hours a week cleaning the garage. I couldn’t hang up my coat because I shared a locker with nine other crew members, and it was already jammed with bottles of cleaning solution, toilet brushes, and a plunger. The lock was broken. I couldn’t put my bag lunch in the refrigerator because the full-time garbage men had padlocked it.

The next day I asked for a pair of gloves, but they didn’t have any. When I said it was important because I had injured my hand at home, I was given a dirty, used pair. I was afraid my hand would get infected.

After a month, I was told that I would be working sixteen hours a week outside, sweeping the streets. When I asked for a dust mask, I was told they were on order. I was issued an army jacket, a knit cap, and a new pair of gloves but wore my own sneakers because they were out of boots. Each morning we walked with our equipment to a cleaning area more than a mile away.

The program is intended to help thirty thousand inexperienced workers enter the job force. It’s a great idea that I hope will get and keep many New Yorkers off welfare. Yet in the rush to put people to work, confusion has ensued. The workfare program doesn’t consider experience or education. I wish it provided for age and skill. And I wish the hours were more consistent. Now, for example, I am working twenty-four hours a week. A woman I know had to stop going to college classes in order to get to her work assignment. A homeless man didn’t come back to the garage because there was no place for him to shower. Full-time sanitation workers fear and resent us, because they are afraid we’ll steal their jobs.

The Work Experience Program has gotten some things right. We can take a day off to interview for jobs, as long as we present written verification, and some supervisors seem to be sincerely trying to help. I just hope the program will turn out to be a concerted effort to aid those who want to work, not just a political Band-Aid.

By Donald Mackey


How to be a man (or at least create the ideal one!)

In Who, where, how? on August 19, 2013 at 6:49 pm


This delicious recipe guarantees a decent man who will be there to comfort and protect you and travel this road we call life.  You may adjust how much of the ingredients you want in this recipe or add a little zest of your own!  However, this is a fail proof recipe to ensure the quality of the man.  There may be a lot that has to go into making the ideal man but in the end it is worth it.  Pssst…the secret is in the seasonings!

La recette pour l’homme ideal

–  One Man (from a good stock)

  • This is one part of the recipe that can be attenuated according to needs.  Short/tall, thin-framed/broad-shouldered, brunette/blonde/redhead, zodiac sign, blue/black/green/hazel/grey eyes, etc.  Just make sure he’s breathing!

             -> Author’s side note: Also, look at his mother.  As the old adage goes, if you want your man to treat you like a princess, make sure he was raised by a Queen!

–  One hefty helping of Intelligence (no substitutions!)

  • I’m not talking about Einsteinian intelligence (though I wouldn’t digress from the individual if he was that gifted!).  The ideal man would be an invigorating conversationalist, would have an awesome sense of humor and would be curious about the world around him and ask why things are the way they are.  He would want to solve the problems of the world, not add to them.  Even though he may be right, he lets the opinions of others, like his potential mate, be voiced as to not become arrogant.

             -> Author’s side note: If man becomes too arrogant, discard immediately and start from scratch again.

–  A steady stirring of a job

  • We understand times are tough but we do want a man who takes care of his own, be it emotionally or in this part of the recipe, financially.  Years ago, this recipe produced men who worked nearly as the day was long to provide for his family of six, seven, eight or even more and never went into debt with anyone in doing so.  Today, there are many artificial men that just sit around playing video games all day long and let their parents pay their way through life.  You want to have children with him, not baby him as well!

–  A dash of Classical Romance embedded in a bouquet garni satchet

  • Add this recipe in the hopes that he will surprise you with a bouquet of flowers not only on special days but on days where you cross his mind.  This could be at work, when someone sharing the same elevator wears the same perfume as you do and it immediately brings you to mind.  Tell him of your girlish frivolities so that when he knows of your love of ladybugs, he will surprise you with a ladybug timer he just happened to lay his eyes upon.

             -> Author’s side note: Recipe strictly calls for classical romance, not for a Harlequin one.  Today’s woman is strong and a capable individual – we want a man to romance our minds as well as our bodies.  The tiniest gesture of thoughtfulness will yield great results.  We are not into the Fabio frou-frou universe of rainbows and unicorns.  We want him to still desire us when our hormones have gone haywire, when we have an outbreak of pimples, when we are drenched with perspiration from our flu-induced fever or when his child’s spit-up is on our holey t-shirt.

–  A sprinkle of Compassion and Emotion

  • We want the ideal man to have empathy and to be compassionate to all those that he shares this world with.  We want him to help the homeless and not pass by someone begging for a meal.  We want him to pull over his car and take that cat that another driver had hit to the veterinarian, not run over it as well!  We want him to stay up all night, or at least taking turns, when his child is sick with an earache.  When his woman cries, he will have sympathy for her and ask what is wrong.  And when she says nothing, he will (now this is a tricky part of the recipe!  Pay attention!) not assume that everything is indeed alright, but ask her again after he has held her for a couple of silent moments.

–  A pinch of Masculinity

  • The majority of women today don’t need someone who can rip a phonebook in half.  He doesn’t need to wrestle with crocodiles or wrangle poisonous snakes just to prove he is a man.  We just want someone who complements our femininity.

             -> Author’s side note: I know this part of the recipe does not call for a He-Man but it goes without saying that we do need someone who isn’t timid in certain situations.  When we women are standing on top of our beds because there is a waterbug in the house, screaming fearfully at the top of our lungs, we want our manly men to take care of business, not join in on the hysterics.

–  A clove of Honesty

  • This is another crucial ingredient in making the ideal man.  Relationships cannot flourish on the foundation of lies.  Be upfront about everything because women are oft-forgiving about many situations.

             -> Author’s side note¹: Women have built-in intuition.  We will know when you are lying.  We will know…

             -> Author’s side note²: If you think you can get away with your secret and for a moment believe that she will never find out about it, go back to the previous side note in recipe and repeat.

–  A cup of Faith

  • For the majority of us women, nothing screams sexy than a man humbled by a Higher Power.  A man of faith is strong in the worldly sense but has the common sense to surrender over his fears to GOD.  He is not intimidated or feels himself emasculated when in times of need or loss of sense of direction and purpose he turns to GOD for help.  As another proverb goes, “He who kneels before GOD can stand up to anyone.”

             -> Author’s side note: For comparison, refer to the movie Rocky II when big, beefy boxer Rocky is constantly seen praying and kneeling, not only for a victory in his fight against Apollo Creed but for his comatose wife.

Cook for ­­___ (enter preference of age here) and wait till he turns into a gentleman.  Turn over once for necessary life experiences and take out when it becomes apparent that he is the ideal man for you!  Garnish with love and serve immediately.  Bon appetit! 

By Rosetta Miletti North

Voice of a guest…

In Soup Kitchen Stories on August 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm


Samuel & Ninoska Wilson always have a smile, even though life hasn’t always smiled on them.

At 14, Samuel came here from Liberia with his parents. “I didn’t know I was undocumented until I left school,” recalls Samuel, “since then, my immigration status has been a stumbling block for me.”

When Samuel and Ninoska – a natural born US citizen – fell in love and married, they expected this stumbling block to be removed. “Once we married we thought Samuel would be legal,” explains Ninoska, “but the lawyers say there’s nothing they can do until the law changes.”

The couple were blessed with two children, Isaac and Genesis, and despite Samuel’s inability to get a secure job they got by, sometimes relying on the soup kitchen for meals. But in 2011, when Samuel developed a drug problem, they couldn’t get by anymore.

“I knew I needed help,” says Samuel, “I went into rehab to clean up.” Ironically, it was in rehab, as Samuel strived to get well, that things took a turn for the worse. Assaulted by another client, Samuel suffered a severe spinal injury that has left him confined to a wheelchair.

“Being undocumented I get no benefits,” explains Samuel. “Even this wheelchair was donated to me.” Ninoska had no choice but to give up her job to become Samuel’s carer, a decision which lost the family their income and ultimately, their home. It was then they realized they could get more than a hot meal at Holy Apostles.

“We were in desperate need of help when we came here,” recalls Samuel. “They got us clothing, Christmas presents for the kids. They helped us find somewhere to live.”

Today, the couple live in a shelter, while Isaac and Genesis – now 8 and 7 – live with Ninoska’s mother. “It’s very hard on all of us,” Ninoska says, “we’re a family. We want to be together, but we have no other choice right now. At least we know they are safe.”

Miraculously, despite losing his ability to walk, his home and his children over the last two years, Samuel has remained drug free. “You do the best you can, take it a day at a time,” he says, “coming here is a life saver. The spirit of good will is tremendous, it gives us hope.”

Ninoska too, is hopeful. She hopes changes in immigration laws could make Samuel eligible for the care he needs and bring the family back together under one roof. Until that happens, she resolves to focus on the positives in their lives.

“We have each other, two wonderful children, we have love,” says Ninoska, smiling. “We have the support of everyone in this wonderful place. We have a lot to be thankful for.”

Voice of a Volunteer…Coula

In Soup Kitchen Stories on August 16, 2013 at 6:34 pm


86 year old Coula Farris has been a volunteer at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen for over 11 years. Every Wednesday, she can be found, cloth in hand, cleaning down the tables for our guests and replenishing their water and milk.

“I’ll do any job they need me to do but I like working at the tables best,” says Coula with her trademark twinkling smile.  “I love to talk to people and spend time interacting with the guests, I get the most enjoyment out of that.”

For Coula, a former Case Worker at Bellevue Hospital, spending time meeting and talking to new people was something she missed when she retired. Now a caregiver for her husband who is suffering from a long term illness, Coula looks forward to her weekly volunteering as a chance to meet new people from all walks of life. “It’s not only the guests who get something here, you know,” she says, “it’s the volunteers who get the real gift.”

When I ask her if that’s why she keeps coming back, she smiles wider. “That, and because it’s so much fun,” she says. “Whatever you do in life, always remember to have fun.”

Good advice, and judging from the faces of the guests at the tables Coula’s looking after today, it’s rubbing off on them too.

The First Time I Became Drunk

In Stories, secrets & dreams on August 15, 2013 at 8:58 pm


There’s no smoking, no drinking, and for small children there’s no running in my house.  I have a number of bric-a-brac and I don’t want any of them broken. Those were the rules of Ida Mae Pinnock, my grandmother.  My uncle on the other hand was a merchant seaman, and when he came home he brought the sea with him. He was an alcoholic and a chain smoker. He would drink in his room at the top of the stairs all day, but when he wanted to smoke he’d put his shirt on and walk around the block to smoke his cigarettes. Grandma knew what he was doing but he would always pay her with gifts from his trips so she looked the other way. He would always invite some of my friends up to his room to tell us stories of his travels, and while we were there he’d give us drinks — alcohol drinks — just a small amount, he said he was training us for the real world. My friends liked that stuff — he had an assortment of booze.  They would go for the Rum and Coke, me, vodka, his drink was bourbon. I should tell you he was about thirty-something and we were no more than twelve years old. My grandmother didn’t know this was happening under her roof or else she would hit the roof so to speak. He would let us go in his bathroom and brush our teeth and gargle before going home. This went on for a couple of years until I got somewhat to like the taste of alcohol, but I never became dependent on it. My uncle died at age 42 and left my grandmother a vast amount of money, and when she went into his room she got a surprise. She found at least 20 cases of assorted liquor. She cried for about a day, then she packed everything up, called a garbage service and had them take everything, including the clothes, the furniture, and the booze to the city dump. I know the truck men did not destroy the booze and my grandmother knew that too.

Fast forward to me and my friends starting to work. We got a job at the same store — E. J. Korvettes — but we would always party together. One Friday afternoon we all went to a bar around the corner from the job.  Vinny and Earl drank Rum and Cokes.  Me, I was drinking beer. Vinny couldn’t hold his liquor so we encouraged him to go home. Earl met with a lady and they left the bar together. Me, I stayed and changed my drink to Rum and Coke and started to remember who started me drinking.  My uncle, God rest his soul. I kept drinking until I fell off the bar stool. Somebody helped me up from the floor but I can’t remember leaving the bar. I got on the cross-town bus, getting off at my stop. All I remember is sitting on the stoop of my house singing “Day oh, Day-ay-oh, daylight come and me wanna go home,” a Harry Belafonte song. I was singing it at the top of my lungs so that my cousin had to come outside and shut me up. This was 2 am in the morning. I was drunk. The following morning my grandmother had a field day with me. This was Saturday so she had all day to get it out of her system. She compared me to my uncle, her son. She called me every name in the book. My defense to her was that I did not get drunk in her house as her rule says. She said I brought it to her house, that is the same thing. That’s as if I was drinking in her house. She never spoke to me again until the year before she died. We made up, had a good laugh, and remembered the old days with Uncle Ned. God rest their souls. That, I can say, is the first time I became drunk.

By George Cousins

Charlie, the Bug Guy

In Stories, secrets & dreams, Who, where, how? on August 8, 2013 at 8:13 pm


You meet a lot of interesting and friendly people, both among the other volunteers and our guests, when volunteering at Holy Apostle Soup Kitchen. They come from all walks of life and many have fascinating stories to tell.

One such person is my friend, Charlie (we’re not real big on last names at HASK). He’s a six foot three ex-school teacher with bushy white hair and mustache a great smile and terrific sense of humor. One of other volunteers says she thinks he resembles Tom Selleck. Maybe, but I don’t really see it. I met Charlie at lunch one Friday and we quickly became friends. He usually works the outside door and it’s allowed him to get to know many of our visitors by their first names, their lives and their hardships. He participates in the HASK Writers Workshop and I recently attended one of their readings. After listening to heir readings it helped to get to know many of them better as well.

Early on at lunch on Friday we were discussing our plans for the weekend. I didn’t have anything in particular planned but Charlie said he was planning on attending the bug and reptile show at the Westchester Center in White Plains. This quickly got all of the people at the table very interested and we all questioned “Why?” Charlie proceeded to tell us that one of his hobbies was collecting and raising tarantulas, scorpions and giant centipedes which he keeps in his basement. He told us of their eating habits and the fact that, contrary to popular belief, their bite isn’t lethal although the bite of a giant centipede can be very painful. I’ll take his word on this since I have no desire to find out for myself. Needless to say this hobby of Charlie’s quickly became the talk of the table and, after that, he became know as the bug guy to a number of people.

One Friday Sister Cecilia came and sat with us and we enlightened her about Charlie’s hobby. Ever since when she sits with us she refers to Charlie as “tarantula man” and questions him about their latest exploits. He’s brought in pictures of one his prized tarantulas, one of which is easily the size of a dinner plate and he gladly shares tales of any pregnancies, new additions and any recent purchases.

Yes, we all have interesting hobbies and Charlie’s is certainly an unusual one but hey, I always say to each his own. Charlie may be bug guy to some and tarantula man to Sister Cecilia but to me he is a friend and so much more.

By Joe