Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Archive for November, 2013|Monthly archive page

Soup Kitchen Stories: Tom Borgers

In Soup Kitchen Stories, The worst of times on November 25, 2013 at 3:41 pm

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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.

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Ten Rules for Living

In Keeping hope alive on November 25, 2013 at 8:20 am

Heart shaped splash

1. Be Idealistic. Whether it’s in the philosophical concept of the Good, or the Judeo-Christian God, or in the nebulous Brahman, idealism transforms our primal nature into something higher.

2. Protect Idealism. Whether it is in a child’s love of nature, or in an idea of international law, protect idealism in all its forms with all your strength because it is incredibly rare.

3. Feel Compassion. Direct goodwill out in the world. It is hard to hold onto a petty grudge when you know that the object of your disdain, like you, is living on this planet briefly and then passing away. Compassion for a fellow mortal puts it all into perspective.

4. Pray or Meditate. We must pay attention to our inner needs. This can take the form of a novena, or a yoga asana or a Tibetan Buddhist chant. It will strengthen sanity, bring unity to our complex drives, and help attain a strong “I,” while bringing us closer to the ultimate “Other.”

5. Create. How else will anyone know that you have been a part of life? Write, play music, paint, sculpt, or draw. Show the world what you are artistically.

6. Be a Maverick. Go where no one else has gone before. Do what no one else has done before you. Call life an adventure and solve it in a way that no one else ever has.

7. Be Curious. For some bizarre reason, we have curbed the idea of learning into the first eighteen years of life, and only then to learn how to do a trade, spend the rest of our lives doing that trade euntil retirement. Learning should never stop.

8. Don’t Be Materialistic. Show me how a man treats another man, and you’ll see how he treats himself. Voilent emotions and black thoughts arise from the futile attempt to grab onto the ever-changing world and its seductive charms.

9. Improvise. There are no set formulas to life. Play it by ear, learn, do good in many ways, explore beauty, improvise.

10. Edit. Learn from your mistakes and apologize when an apology is needed. Use results gained from your curiosity to do things better. Improvise better until you can improvise no more.

By Peter Nkruma

Gerard’s Story

In Guest stories, Soup Kitchen Stories on November 24, 2013 at 8:14 pm

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Gerard first came to Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen as a child. When food stamps weren’t enough to feed his family, his mom took the family from their Hell’s Kitchen apartment to the soup kitchen. “Every day we would trek from 48th Street to 28th Street to come eat,” Gerard recalls.

Gerard’s family hit some difficult times and he spent time in the foster care system. At 18 when he “aged out” of the system, Gerard once again found himself turning to Holy Apostles for help and this time, for more than just a meal.

“There was a time when I couldn’t even afford a haircut, and I need a haircut really badly. How could I get a job if my hair was all over the place?” Gerard says. The haircut ended up paying off – the next day, he got the job.

Now, at 32, Gerard’s life is back on track. He is married with children of his own. But when the family is having trouble making ends meet, Gerard and his wife come here, to help provide for their children.

“I’m very comfortable coming here. People shouldn’t be too proud to come to a place like this. There’s nothing wrong with coming to a soup kitchen, at all,” Gerard says.

“People need to be aware that there are these services available for them,” Gerard says. Much like we’ve been there for Gerard through the difficult points in his life, he hopes that other hungry New Yorkers will come here whenever they hit on hard times. “I’m grateful that this organization is here to help open doors for people. People come here for a little grounding, so they can figure out where to go.”

Gerard is also grateful for each and every one of our supporters. “The money that people donate is not wasted. It’s not wasted at all. It goes where it needs to go. It goes to the bellies of the people who are hungry. And it goes to the clothing that people need to wear so they can withstand the cold of the winter.”

Thanksgiving Day 2013

In holidays, Poetry on November 24, 2013 at 7:42 pm

thanksgiving day

Our maker – Our hope

When God gave us the
talent that we have, it
was to help build His
tabernacle.

It’s a job to honor
God – Amen –

In the garden of
hearts – lies joy, laughter,
Sorrow, when it’s touched.

Our gathering today to give
thanks and giving is a
privilege and pleasure.

The turning of the
leaves in the forest
to orange, yellow, red
brown is wonderful
A pure delight.

The pleasure to be with
loved ones for Thanksgiving
Day.

The cooking of foods, turkey,
stuffing, yams, apple cider,
Pumpkin pies- apple.

Thanksgiving Day is given
to all peoples-

To be blessed with
the ability to say thanks,
muchly and with the desire
to give with love.

It’s a day to reflect,
to communicate, to pray,
for others and to enjoy
the atmosphere at present.

Again
Happy Thanksgiving Day

By Fred D Street

Our Family Tradition: Sacrifice

In Guest stories, Love on November 22, 2013 at 7:10 pm

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Our family tradition is sacrifice: Mom having to eat leftover pizza on her birthday, when she just wanted to treat herself to a ribeye steak dinner with a baked potato and a buttered yeast roll. But her mother said, in that side-mouthed way she strains to speak since the stroke, “I need you here.” Here, in room 318 at the Sunview Rehabilitation and Care Center – Mom likes how they don’t call it a nursing home – where Mom’s been sleeping on a cot at her mother’s bedside, living on peanut butter crackers and visitors’ trays – usually an off-colored slab of meat and stale bread and syrupy canned fruit cocktail with flecks of maraschino cherry for dessert. She’s gained back eight pounds in the 62 days she’s been staying with Grandmother, because she can’t have her usual grilled chicken salads, and she’s been drinking too many Dr. Peppers, because she’s been on edge. She would eat yogurt, but she doesn’t have anywhere to keep it, and that day-old piece of pizza she ate on her birthday hadn’t been refrigerated, but she was hungry and didn’t have anything else. It made her sick at her stomach, and she spent the night on the bathroom floor throwing up.

But she promised her mother she wouldn’t leave her. Those “skilled” nurses don’t even keep track of the rate the feeding tube pumps into her mother’s stomach, and Grandmother had lost five pounds since the stroke, She was already down to 117 since losing all that weight staying with my Aunt Judy.

In intensive care, when we didn’t know if Grandmother was going to come back at all, Mom told her, “I want to be with you like we were with Judy.”

Mom and Grandmother would take turns sitting up at night with Judy in those awful last months, when she’d just turn and turn and couldn’t get comfortable, and couldn’t keep anything down, and Mom would watch her look off into the dark sometimes and wonder how scared she must be. But she never complained. Once she asked Mom for a pillow and just said, “I hate to be some helpless.”

The day Judy died, I helped Grandmother pack up her bags from the hospital room, and they were full of zip-locks packed with peppermints and cellophane packs of peanut butter crackers. Grandmother wouldn’t leave Judy’s side even to go to the hospital cafeteria.

One day Mom hired a sitter to stay with Grandmother for a few hours. If she left her alone, she was afraid the nursing staff would let her aspirate and choke to death. Mom went home to take a shower, pick up the mail and help her daddy write the bills. And when she got back, the sitter said Grandmother had seemed agitated all day, and Mom asked Grandmother why, and she said, “I can’t stand it here without you. I’m scared.”

In physical therapy, they’d jerked her up on that elevated table and left her hanging there while they worked with other patients. And they’d fed her too fast, trying to get her in shape for a barium swallowing test. They spooned more applesauce in her mouth than she could handle and tried to get her to answer questions while she was trying to get it down: “Mrs. Ronsaville, do you know why we’re here today?”

By Ashley Makar