Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Archive for February, 2014|Monthly archive page

Omar’s Story

In employment, Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Soup Kitchen Stories on February 26, 2014 at 3:19 pm

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On a typical day at Holy Apostles, you can usually find Omar in the back of the soup kitchen by counseling, enthusiastically talking to guests and handing out haircut vouchers, clothing referral slips, and toiletries.

“I’ve volunteered in counseling, at the bread station, collecting trays… I’ve tried a lot of the volunteer jobs. But being in counseling is my favorite job,” Omar says. “I get to talk to a lot of people. It feels good to have a sense of responsibility.”

Omar has been volunteering here for years, but when he initially came to Holy Apostles ten years ago, he came as a guest.

“When I first came to Holy Apostles, I had no idea so many people came here. But I was immediately impressed by how good the food was,” Omar shared, smiling. “I used to be on the street. It helped me open my heart to help people because I’ve been there before. I’m glad to be a volunteer now so I can help people in tough situations.”

When Omar first came here, he was struggling with a drinking problem. “Holy Apostles helped me to get detoxed in 2007. I’m doing a lot better now,” says Omar, proudly. “The people here help to keep me on track. I really like the people here. They keep my spirits high.”

Holy Apostles also helped to set Omar up with housing. He’s now living at BRC. “It’s much better than living on the streets,” Omar says. “Holy Apostles has really helped me to turn my life around. I’m doing much better now than I was when I first came here.”

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Leroy’s Story

In Guest stories, Soup Kitchen Stories on February 17, 2014 at 6:22 pm

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“I was hungry, somebody told me about this place, and I came,” says Leroy, 40-year-old soup kitchen guest. “I found that they offer all these wonderful services.”

Leroy has been coming here for the past 5 years and has used many of our services. “Holy Apostles has helped me out a lot,” Leroy says, smiling. “They helped me with socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and lotion. They even helped me to get an ID. I just used a haircut voucher a couple days ago. And they show movies, which is a great way to keep out of the cold.”

Knowing we’re here gives him a sense of security. “Everyone at Holy Apostles makes sure I get everything I need; they really go above and beyond. They make sure my needs are met even if it comes out of their own pockets,” Leroy shares, gratefully. “Holy Apostles really is a great place!”

But what it really comes down to for Leroy is the people – he loves the volunteers and other guests.

“Everyone is so warm, friendly and nice – that’s what keeps me coming back. They make me feel like I belong to a part of something.”

Song of Homeless Writers

In Poetry on February 16, 2014 at 6:24 pm

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Out of the long winter’s night
We have assembled to write,
So that the world might know
To home we must go.

So exchange, for a change,
Your money for a chance
To send us on our way in a verbal dance
To home we must go.

Always on the run,
Hallelujah, I’m a bum!
Got plenty of nothing but God’s only Son
To home we must go.

Everyone has a story to tell,
I think that we each tell it well.
Now, here is one you don’t already know:
To home we must go.

We, having no money,
Exchange stories that are funny.
But others are bad and will send you home mad.
To home we must go.

Pillars of the community have a tired old song:
“You must have done something wrong.”
But sell out that high, so our low you may buy:
To home we must go.

By Walter L. Schubert

Photo credit: AP/Mark Lennihan

Confession: Giving Away

In Stories, secrets & dreams on February 16, 2014 at 6:02 pm

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I usually give away food – leftovers from a restaurant or bread that’s getting old at the house. I usually make sure I have something on my person to give away – a granola bar, an orange – so I don’t have to feel so bad when I walk by people who are hungry. It does more for me than them, to feel kind. I know it’s not much of a sacrifice, more of a thought, a good intention. But I’ve gotten compulsive about it – looking in likely places for needy people. I’m on the lookout for the poor – begging at subway stops, sleeping in laundromats, collecting plastic bottles and cans from the trash. I’ve gotten compulsive to the point that I give away food that’s not mine – my roommate’s leftover pita, that bag of Famous Amos cookies I picked up from the office. I know they won’t miss them: my roommate will let the pita go stale; the office ladies won’t touch the cookies because they’re on diets.

I want to give something extraordinary – a pot of striped tulips or a stained-glass window – something gratuitous and wonderful: a swan carved out of ice, like those centerpieces on luxury cruise buffets, an Austrian harpsichord, a vellum shred of a gnostic gospel, a submarine paddle boat, a remote-control mechanical butterfly. Or would I keep that for myself? What about my notebook with all those scribbles I dream of turning into a novel someday? Could I give that away – something so precious to me and probably useless to a man on the street? Imagine what he’d do with it, and what I’d do without it – my other compulsion besides giving away food, not writing, but scribbling in a notebook. Would he be disappointed or delighted? Would he tell a story about it – maybe to the guys playing chess in Washington Square Park? Would they read my notes aloud? Would they make fun of me? Would he drop it in a puddle and let the ink words blur in the rain, leave it as debris in the wet leaves? Or would he try to decipher me? Would he make a mystery of the scrawls, or even a ritual? hang the pages out to dry – take the words and parts of words that didn’t blur, the pages that didn’t blow away, and make found poems out of them? or images? Or something even more material – tear the pages into bits, moisten the pulp, make papier-mâché cranes? And what about the spine of the notebook, the spiral wire – would he take days to press it straight and use the filament for something practical? a paper clip?

By Ashley Makar

Harlem United Outreach Table

In Soup Kitchen Stories on February 15, 2014 at 6:35 pm

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Aside from offering our guests a hot meal and counseling and referral services, our daily outreach tables connect our guests to a variety of services, including health services, veteran benefits, and housing assistance.

Harlem United staff Jessica and Nicky recently came in to Holy Apostles to let our guests know about a program called the PEARLS program for women (Prevention, Education and Recovery Learning Strategy). The program, which helps with recovery support and relapse prevention, is one of Harlem United’s many great programs that help people in difficult situations get back on their feet.

Nicky was here at Holy Apostles to sign our guests up for PEARLS as part of the staff at Harlem United. But several years ago, Nicky was going through a difficult time in her life, and she came to Holy Apostles as a guest. Since then, she’s turned her life around and is grateful to have the opportunity to help other people in need. “I came here during a very difficult time in my life. It was comforting to know there was a place I could rely on to get hot food. The people at Holy Apostles were always very nice,” Nicky shares.

It was Jessica’s first time at Holy Apostles. “I didn’t realize how big Holy Apostles is. All different types of people come here. This place helps so many people,” Jessica says. “We’re here to help provide some extra support for the guests at Holy Apostles.”

Karla’s Story

In Soup Kitchen Stories on February 12, 2014 at 8:00 pm

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Karla found out about Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in 2008. “I read a wonderful article by Ian Frazier about Holy Apostles in the New Yorker, and I immediately wanted to do something to help out,” Karla says.

She came to the soup kitchen to volunteer her time, and was immediately hooked. “Holy Apostles is such an inclusive place. I like that the volunteers and guests come from all walks of life,” Karla shares.  “I had recently retired, and I’m a social worker by training, so I was asked to help out as a counselor.”

Karla has volunteered here once a week since when she first came in 2008. She helps guests to get back on their feet and off the soup kitchen line. “There are so many things we can do to help guests out. We offer lots of wonderful services here,” Karla says. “And the food is great, too!”

Through her extensive experience counseling a variety of populations, Karla has the knowledge and compassion to be a great help to our guests. “I always make sure to be accepting, kind and generous with our guests. Many of the people who come here have had very rough lives,” Karla says.

“I love making a difference in our guests’ lives,” Karla says. “I come back every week because helping out here is an incredibly rewarding experience. Holy Apostles answers such a basic need. People are hungry and we feed them. That’s really a good thing to do.”

Michael’s Story

In Guest stories, Soup Kitchen Stories on February 10, 2014 at 8:02 pm

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Michael is a 36 year old New Yorker, from Brooklyn. After leaving school, Michael pursued his dream of becoming a hairdresser, honing his skills in California before returning to land a job at a high end Fifth Avenue salon.

But last year, when Michael’s roommate moved out and he was left to cover their rent alone, things started to go wrong. When he lost his job and was unable to find another, Michael was evicted.

I couldn’t find any work,” he recalls, “and then I started drinking very heavy and it sort of developed into a life of its own.”

Michael’s drinking spiraled out of control for several months before he took the first step to address his addiction at a Washington DC based rehab. But returning to New York newly sober and homeless, presented a whole new set of challenges. He knew he needed support and luckily he remembered Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

I’ve known about this place for several years,” Michael says.  “Did I ever think I’d end up here? No. But life happens.”

Today, Michael has eight months of sobriety and is slowly turning his life around. Having found a place in the shelter system, he comes to the soup kitchen every day for a meal and respite from the chaos of the shelter.

It’s a struggle to stay sober,”  he admits, “living in shelters is stressful. It’s much calmer here and the volunteers are so friendly. I stick around after lunch for yoga and movies.”

Central to Michael’s recovery, is being of service and helping others. “I try to spread the word to other people who need help getting back on their feet,” Michael explains. “Two of my friends were evicted last week and they’ve been sleeping on trains. I brought them here, and it was a big help for them.”

Michael has hope for his future, a future he is living one day at a time with the help and support of the soup kitchen. “This place really does help people,” he says. “Some people don’t like coming to soup kitchens but you’re in this situation where you’ve got to suck up your pride.  That’s life, it happens. It can happen to anybody.”

 

My First Love

In Love on February 8, 2014 at 4:20 pm

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I’ve always been aware of my first love. For all the loves who have come in and through my life, who I’ve loved intensely and sweetly, this love remains. For men who have loved me and left or those who have had the door shut in their face. None has ever touched me like my first love–food!

It’s been a continuing affair since first memory, snacks at the circus. Grandmother always said I ate my way through the three rings. The terror of that day was holding the peanuts tightly fearing the elephant wanted one. I screamed scarlet and held the bag closer. I won. Dumbo was terrified.

I learned the art of cooking in my grandmother’s southern kitchen. I did well there and had the weight to prove it. Food didn’t talk back. Pork chops and fried apples, roast beef with mash and gravy. Home-canned veggies and preserves.

As I grew older I cooked my way into relationships and marriage. No one ever left my table and complained. As I fell out of love, I stopped cooking. Starve, baby, starve. I learned to prepare continental, Spanish, and Oriental cuisine. The nicest thing my former husband said about me was, “If you want to make Carol happy, just give her a cookbook.”

In the ware of weight, food won. Food loved me. People could see it, and I never said no to a box of chocolates. There’s no “heroin chic” for me. Food is my comfort, my control, and the nicest reward. A new dish well prepared and enjoyed makes my endorphins sing.

It’s a lifelong affair, and as you can see, I wear my love well.

By Carol West

Andrew’s Story

In Guest stories, Soup Kitchen Stories on February 5, 2014 at 7:17 pm

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Andrew, 24, has been homeless since he was 3 years old. His grandmother, one of the only positive influences in his life, passed away when he was just 18 years old.

“When my grandmother died, I lost all hope,” Andrew says. “I came to New York City homeless, depressed, and not knowing where to turn. I’m so grateful that I found Holy Apostles.”

Andrew recently got out of 45 days in prison, and is ready to get back on his feet.

“It’s rough in jail, there’s a lot of fighting going on. It was a really bad experience but I was able to be a positive role model for other people,” Andrew says. “It helped me to put things in perspective. I’m ready to get my life back together.”

With our help, Andrew has been proactive about taking steps toward independence, and has remained hopeful about the future. “Holy Apostles helped me to get an ID card and Social Security card,” Andrew says, gratefully. “I’m not just a homeless guy on the street. I spend most of my time working to get back on my feet.”

Andrew has continued to come here over the years because he loves the community. “I really like it here. If Holy Apostles wasn’t here for me, I don’t know where I would go,” Andrew says.

The Clock is Ticking

In Stories, secrets & dreams on February 3, 2014 at 11:14 am

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Being in touch with reality includes having a good sense of time. When estimating how long an operation will take, realism is called for. Musicians often practice the same number, first very slowly, then exceedingly rapidly – this enables them to feel it in different ways, and to be more precise in their adherence to the tempo they will choose when it comes time to perform.

We have all experienced how, when a child, one summer can seem like forever. But when an adult, one summer can go by very quickly. That is because for a child the three months are a greater portion of the time he has lived than they are for an adult. But this presupposes that the child looks at the summer months in comparison to his past, not at the past in comparison to the three months of summer.

As we grow older, the reverse is more likely to be true: we look at the past years of our life in comparison to the recent years of our adulthood. When this happens, life seems to have gone by very quickly, and the importance of the immediate present is greatly magnified, much the way the moon, so much closer to us than the sun, appears to be about the same size as the sun, even though it is, in fact, so much smaller.

Along the way, we experience engrossment. We get absorbed in some highly engaging activity, so much so that we neglect to look at the clock. It may seem that only a matter of minutes have transpired, but when we interrupt ourselves and look at the clock – behold!!! several hours have passed. I have experienced this illusory sense of the passage of time on many occasions while playing chamber music.

It can also be said that such engrossment gives us an inkling of what it means to transcend time. It is much like, when reading a novel, one often feels that one is being transported to a far-off land, leaving the earth and her moon, the sun, and even the far-off stars, far behind.

The transcendence of time through death has in times past been understood as meaning that time has been enfolded in eternity, which was taken to be the space-like co-presence of all time. This should not, however, be mistaken to mean that in dying we transcend history; we transcend only the time during which we lived. Our death is our way of taking our place in history, not of nullifying history.

Just as the ticking clock measures our lifetime, just so, the turning world measures the passage of the seasons. Each revolution returns the world to the same starting point as the previous revolution, but each tick is yet another extension of an ever-changing world.

By Walter Ludwig Schubert