Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Archive for the ‘Guest stories’ Category

Barbara’s Story

In Friendship, Guest stories on March 4, 2016 at 5:39 pm

SK Stories 2016-Barbara

At 72 years of age, Barbara’s limited retirement income comes from two sources:  social security and food stamps. She rents a small room from a  friend of hers but, she says, “I don’t really have kitchen access so I come here where I know I can have a full, real meal.”

“I worked all my life until I retired a few years ago,” she says. But with minimum wage jobs in retail and office reception, Barbara was never able to put enough away for retirement, living paycheck to paycheck in her home in Queens.

With no immediate family in the area for support, the sit down meals at the soup kitchen give Barbara a lot more than physical nutrition. “It’s like eating at the family table, here,” she says. For Barbara, the soup kitchen family gives her a joyful sense of kinship, and she enjoys the friendship of other regular guests who find nourishment for the body and the soul at our dining tables.

Diana’s Story

In Guest stories, Uncategorized on February 16, 2016 at 10:42 pm

SK Stories 2016 -Diana Taylor

Diana’s life is soaring now, but she stopped in recently to  express her gratitude for the part the soup kitchen played in getting her career and her life off the ground.

A talented singer, actor, writer and model Diana Taylor was moving up in her career when a fire destroyed all her possessions and apartment six years ago.  Forced to find emergency, temporary shelter at the cheapest hotel she could find, she quickly realized that after losing all her belongings, including her identification cards, she was on a collision course with homelessness and bankruptcy.

“Someone at the hotel told me I could get a meal here,” she remembers.

For a year and a half, while Diana rebuilt her financial and emotional life from the trauma of the fire, she gained strength from the meals at the soup kitchen, and regained her equilibrium with the help of our social services team.

“While I hustled back to a balance, the soup kitchen was there for me with a wealth of resources,” she says, remembering how much the soup kitchen’s clothing pantry helped her rebuild a wardrobe, and how she found the practical tools she needed to rebuild her life.

“I’ll tell you,  it was that little I.D. that helped me the most.” she says, referring to the photo I.D. program run through our social services program. “From there I could get a new social security card, start over and great things began to happen!”

Since then, Diana’s life has taken off again, and now her home base is  in Miami, Florida where she continues her life on stage and as a field reporter for a publication called “Soul Be Swag.”

Back in New York, she  wanted to share with us her good news, “I got an audition for The Voice on February 2oth” she says excitedly. “So I’m up here working with a vocal coach and getting ready for that.”

As she looks around the soup kitchen, she remembers when times were harder: “It was a blessing…I was never judged,” she remembers,”After I  lost everything in the fire, the soup kitchen helped me get back to balance with dignity and respect.”

 

 

 

 

Travis’s Story

In employment, Food, Guest stories, Soup Kitchen Stories, Volunteer Stories on December 29, 2015 at 7:26 pm

Travis chopping food 2

Recently unemployed and homeless, Travis moved to New York to look for new opportunities. He’s come a long way since living on a reservation with his former wife in Arizona, before their divorce forced him back east where he lived  with his father in Tennessee for many years.

“I learned on the reservation how important it is to take care of others, especially your elders,” Travis recalls.

Now at age 45, Travis has a wealth of work history in auto mechanics, welding, forklift operation, cab driving and bartending. But at about the same time that he lost his job as a forklift operator in a warehouse last year, his father decided to retire in Illinois, moving to a rural area with few job possibilities for Travis.  When looking at his options, his work history and his dream of studying culinary arts,  it seemed to Travis that he would have a better chance of making a living and pursuing his goals in New York than anywhere else.

Without a job to start off with however, Travis quickly ran out of money and found himself homeless and hungry. He found a local shelter where he can sleep, and it was there that his roommate told him he could find a hot meal at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

But Travis didn’t want to just come here for a meal. “I want to earn my keep,” he says, pointing at the pounds of Plantains in front of him. Several mornings a week now, Travis is one of the first volunteers to arrive, and he gets right to work chopping vegetables and fruit in the kitchen, preparing food that will be served to about a thousand guests between 10:30 and 12:30. “This gives me the chance to learn a little bit about the culinary trade, and be able to eat.”  After all the guests have had their meal, Travis joins the other volunteers for lunch, a meal that gives him the strength to continue his job search and pursue his dreams.

“I like to serve,” Travis says. “It’s what I do.”

Charlese’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Soup Kitchen Stories, The worst of times, Uncategorized on December 7, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Stories -charlese

Homelessness can happen to anyone. Just ask 64 year old Charlese, who lived in the same Upper West Side apartment for almost 40 years, since before her marriage. Her husband owned a beauty salon which Charlese become the manager of, a position she held for 24 years. But when their marriage broke down, Charlese lost her job as well.

“Because I was his wife, I wasn’t able to get any unemployment benefits,” Charlese explains. “He moved out and I wasn’t able to manage the rent alone.

Just as Charlese was forced to tap into her life savings, a new landlord increased her rent dramatically. Her only living family was her elderly father, too frail to support her. Without any income, Charlese was evicted in August, 2013 after she had depleted all her life savings.  Then next thing she knew, she found herself homeless, afraid and alone, sleeping in the Amtrak waiting room at Penn Station, or riding the subway. Without anyone else to turn to, she turned to the soup kitchen. She smiles as she recalls her first meal here.

“I remember the first day I came here.  I felt so peaceful, I felt at home.”

Charlese has spent many days here, even during her father’s illness, when she cared for him despite her own challenges. She’s come here to grieve his recent passing and she lights up when she talks about him.”He was a veteran and a boxer – he taught me how to fight, in every sense of the word.”

Fighting is what Charlese is doing—to stay sane … to stay safe … and to get her life back. This spring she shared her story of homelessness and the hope she found at the soup kitchen at the annual spring fundraiser, From Farm to Tray. “I’m so grateful to everyone, especially the social services staff members who have given me hope at times when I literally felt like I couldn’t go on.”

Today, Charlese has secured a part time job at a call center and lives frugally with a friend to whom she pays rent. While she struggles to  to cover all of her expenses on low wages, she’s determined to never have to rely on a shelter. She says simply, “The food here and the community here has helped me preserve my dignity and spirit.”

 

 

Londy’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Soup Kitchen Stories on August 27, 2015 at 3:25 pm

 

 

LondyFFTS

When thirty two year old Londy and her twelve year old daughter first came to Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen two years ago, they were not only hungry for a meal, they were also fleeing a dangerous domestic violence situation. For Londy, the prospect of homelessness was safer than  the constant threat of physical abuse.

And with no family in the area for support, Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen soon became a place she and her daughter could find the routine of regular meals, a safe community and, even, tradition.  “I love the little things they do here, especially on the holidays,” she said, “It really means a lot – to be able to have a place to celebrate whatever holiday is going on. ”

It’s taken courage for  Londy to trust  people again, after living under chronic fear for so long. She’s been enduring unpredictable and temporary living arrangements while seeking out housing that’s truly safe and permanent. “I live in a shelter so the soup kitchen is really comforting,”  she says, adding how much she found comfort by talking with one of the clergy members one day, and how the social services program has helped her navigate resources to help her cope.

“I was doing really bad,” Londy recalls. “And the people  helped me with clothing, and resources like shelter referrals, so I could find ways to survive.”

While she tells her story, Londy  pauses to say hello to another guest and then remarks, “Everyone – their whole demeanor, is really nice here. It helps.”

Today, Londy’s hopeful that her section 8 housing application will be approved before the winter sets in. While she must contend with the stress of waiting for that outcome, she’s gained enough trust in others again to meet with  both the chiropractor and  energy healer who volunteer their time at the soup kitchen  every week.

“I’ve got really bad back problems from not sleeping well, and the chiropractor really helps,” she says. “And I feel so light after meeting with the energy healer, it was amazing!”

 

 

 

Jacques

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive on August 11, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Jacques

Recently,  Jacques dropped in for a visit on his day off to let our social services team know  how much his life has really turned around since he first came to the soup kitchen. When the fifty two year old first came here about three years ago, he had lost his job and his home.  He was also grieving the loss of his mother, who he had lived with and helped care for during her illness before she passed away.

“When she passed —” he recalls, “Everything just fell apart. I was in a shelter. I never thought I’d end up there.”

Thinking about his days in the shelter Jacques says, “I was ashamed, but the soup kitchen helped me remember who I am  and that anyone can end up where I was.”

“I had no money but the soup kitchen helped me get through the day,” Jacques recalls, thinking about that tough winter, “There are very nice people here and it was really a source of energy, the meals and their kindness. They issued me a MetroCard, gloves, scarves and hats.”

Now, Jacques  is working again in security, “I’ve got a room of my own in a two story building,” and he says.  “I got my own place thanks to the help here which helped me with referrals for housing.”

Recently, Jacques even got a promotion at his new job. He gives credit to the social services team and the volunteers here who inspired him to have a new positive, outlook on life one that he knows his mother would be proud of, “Just by being kind and being helpful, they helped me get to where I am now.”

Freedom of Expression

In Guest stories, Prose, Uncategorized on May 21, 2015 at 11:50 am

lady_liberty

Since I’m always on my way, going someplace, a better question is “Where are you coming from?’

T.S. Eliot started by by saying, “In my end is my beginning.” There is much work that I still have to do before I accept my end. I would work to make myself a useful citizen of this country. I have much to offer, and much of what I have to offer is in what I have to say.

It is not that I am full of myself. Yet I believe that many of the problems that America is facing are not unlike the personal problems I have. America might do well to lend me her ear to see how I have succeeded where I find her to be faltering.

It is not as though what I have to say has already been said by others. I am different from the people around me. Social workers try to deal with me by looking up the answer in the back of the book. They do not understand that their book is the wrong book. The right book has not yet been written.

Yes, I was born in New York City, on December 17,1942. It was ten days after Enrico Fermi’s achievement of controlled fission. It was Beethoven’s birthday. It was the middle of the World War. Music, science, and history are in my blood. Their fundamental precepts are the context in which I stand in this instant of time’s momentum. they are the horizon that surrounds me in everything I hope to do.

On the seashore I see what I can reach for: a land of acceptance and welcome. A journey that began when my parents left Europe is finding its place in America, just as America is finding her place in the world. My role is to add significance to what she does. We hear overtones, for music is international language.

In the end, we two have much left to say.

Walter Schubert

 

Soup Kitchen Story: Robert

In employment, Guest stories, Keeping hope alive on May 7, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Robert with border

Robert has been delivering important messages for a long time now, and we’re fortunate that his work has brought him back through the doors of Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.  In the mid 1990’s Robert was a bike messenger in lower Manhattan and would “stop in pretty much every day for a hot meal” at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. By the year 2000 he had put in enough time –  “8 hours a day on a bike!” – to merit moving up to a job as an indoor messenger, working within an office mailroom setting.  Hard work has always been central to Robert’s life.

“My mother instilled a good work ethic in me,” he tells me. “You’ve got to put something into life in order to get something out of it!”

He was working hard and his employment steady when, in 2006, he was diagnosed with cancer. No longer able to work full time, Robert found himself without a job at all, his only focus on survival. That’s when he turned to Harlem United for support, which ultimately led to the part time job that brought him back to the steps of Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, helping today’s guests.

Robert says Harlem United Services was originally set up to help only people living with HIV access the help they need, but it has expanded its range of services to people with differing physical and mental health needs.  His job is to get the message out about its day programs: from therapy to housing and health coordination.  “I had to think of places where I could tell a lot of people about Harlem United, and Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen was always in the back of my mind,” he says.

Harlem United is just one of many agencies we invite into the soup kitchen daily to offer guests a way to connect with others who can offer them additional help to address specific needs. Robert is here in this capacity twice a month and though we serve over 1,000 meals every day he says  he will be satisfied if he can reach “one person.”

“This place is an oasis in the middle of Manhattan,” Robert says, “People can eat all they want here, come back for seconds and anyone can use it. I know  it’s made a big impact on people.”

Judith’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, The worst of times, Who, where, how? on February 26, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Guest_Judith

Judith, a 47-year-old New Yorker, has been a guest at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen for over five years.

Before falling on hard times, Judith worked for the Parks Department and before then as a nurse’s aide.  But in 2010, when she and her husband both lost their jobs, they were no longer able to keep up with the rent, and evicted from their apartment.  Judith’s husband spiraled into a deep depression which led to a crack cocaine addiction. Eventually, he left Judith on her own.

Homeless and alone, Judith turned to the shelter system for help. But finding her meager possessions lost or stolen at the end of each day —  even when she had locked them up — became too much and she felt that sleeping at the airport was safer. By using a rolling suitcase that makes her look like any other traveler, Judith has been able to make JFK her home for the past three years.

Judith is grateful for the two-to-three days each week when she is able to get to the soup kitchen, where she relies on a meal that’s not only hot and appetizing, but healthy and well-balanced.  “It’s hard to find meals that include fruits and vegetables,” she says — a sentiment echoed by many of the women and men we serve.  The day she spoke to us, Judith and all of our guests enjoyed pasta with meat sauce, mixed vegetables, salad, apples, milk and juice.

Judith also appreciates the compassion and kindness of staff and volunteers alike.  “Everyone is so good here.  They treat you like they care.  They go out of their way to help.

Recently, that help has included a voucher for the warm winter coat Judith wears on these bitterly cold days.  Help has also come in the form of her participation in the Writers’ Workshop where she has been able to access her own creativity for the first time since childhood and to find a way to break out of isolation by connecting with others.

Along with all the help and support that she gets from the soup kitchen, Judith loves the music and the musicians who share their talent and time.  The Thursday we spoke to Judith, Karen Taborn was at the grand piano.  As she played Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing” for a few moments on a cold February day — and thanks to our donors and volunteers — the soup kitchen was able to ease the worries and burdens of our all guests, including Judith.

A Time I Should Have Been Angry

In employment, Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Poetry on February 25, 2015 at 8:38 pm

end-of-life-choices

by Fred D. Street

An occasion some time ago, I
lost my Job, yes, I should have
been angry, but I went looking
for employment.

I arrive at New York State Lottery office for employments.

I was hired on that day,

My duties were to hand out
flyers on the street­-

Saying Play New York State Lottery
Pick Six Numbers in each
game, for a dollar-
New York State Lottery started,
I think, 1976-new game
in town-

The opportunity to have
a Job at that time
was rewarding and appreciated.

To choose to be Angry
is a choice.