As New York’s largest soup kitchen we serve 1,000 meals every day – sometimes this number swells to 1,200. From now until the end of this year, we will serve over 40,000 meals to those in need.
At this time of year when the days are dark and cold, it’s especially important for us to be here for our guests. For many, who come here over the holidays, this sanctuary is the closest thing they have to home, the community of other guests and volunteers, their only family.
Financial consultant and radio show host Tom Borgers is someone who knows firsthand how homelessness can devastate families, as his older brother Bobby experienced homelessness.
When Tom talks about Bobby, his face lights up. He tells me how Bobby — the eldest son in their family of seven — was the best looking guy on the block and the smartest in his class.
Bobby was the first of the family to graduate from St Peter’s University — at the top of his class — and he inspired Tom and all their siblings to follow in his footsteps. “Bobby had it all,” recalls Tom as he shared his photo with me. “By 28, he was a millionaire. He had a thriving career as a CPA… a beautiful wife… a bright future ahead of him.”
But while Bobby seemed blessed with the perfect life, he was struggling with depression — a condition that plagued him and eventually led to a downward spiral causing him to lose everything — his career, his marriage and his home.
In the final months of his short life, Bobby lived on the streets… using a cardboard box for shelter. Tom’s face is etched with emotion as he recalls his lonely journey to identify his brother’s body. Bobby’s time on the streets had taken its toll and he looked old beyond his years. Bobby had taken his own life. He was only 32.
“For years, I didn’t talk about it,” Tom admits. “It was years later, walking down Wall Street, when a colleague said something about a homeless guy we passed that I first opened up about it. I turned to my colleague and I said ‘he could be your brother’. I told him Bobby’s story because I wanted him to know that none of us is immune —homelessness can happen to anyone.”
This holiday season, thousands of people will rely on us for help. Like Bobby, every guest will be someone’s brother, someone’s sister, someone’s son, someone’s daughter. Most of our guests will not be with their families, but they can join our soup kitchen family. They can enjoy a hot nutritious meal in the beautiful sanctuary of our church.
They will know they are not alone during this holiday season.
Tragically, it’s too late to be there for Bobby. But it’s not too late to help others. By sharing Bobby’s story, Tom hopes other lives can be saved.