Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Archive for the ‘Guest stories’ Category

Freedom of Expression

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

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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

 

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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.

A Brief Bit of Nature

In Guest stories, Prose on February 25, 2015 at 8:13 pm

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by George Cousins

This morning when I opened my eyes, I thought to myself, today is going to be a great day. I walked a couple of blocks and came to a block that was completely brand new with a 40 floor office building all steel and glass. The sidewalk was completely repaved. There was a building maintenance man washing the sidewalk. The air around smelled fresh. The sky was blue…it feels like heaven. Then I looked down and saw a plant of some kind growing out from between the square on the sidewalk…not a crack, just one of the squares. So I wondered how did it get there – maybe a bird carrying a twig for his new home and a seed fell from the twig or maybe some junkie sitting on the building’s fire hydrant nodded off and dropped his joint and the seed from that joint fell in the crack and started to grow. I stood there for a while and was admiring nature at work. Just then a voice from behind me said, “Are you going to stand there with your cart staring at nothing?” I was thinking all that foot traffic passing that plant and not destroying it. I turned around to look at the person for a second before I said anything. I finally bent down, pulled up the plant root and threw it at him. It landed on his shirt. He said, “My new expensive dress shirt from Pink. What did you do that for? Are you crazy? This is an expensive shirt.” I went close to him and said, “You were in a hurry and I am merely showing you what I saw staring at nature among the steel and glass…so tomorrow I will be in a hurry like you are today and not stop to admire nature because you wanted to see what I was staring at and holding you up. Now you be sure to have a nice day…but as the kids saying goes…. “Don’t step on any cracks or you’ll break your mama’s back…”

Spring Makes Me Feel Young

In Guest stories, Prose on February 25, 2015 at 8:09 pm

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by Charles Borges

Spring makes me feel young – it is like being born again. You want to smile and hug everybody you meet in the street. You are full of love and compassion. It’s like your first love in school – your heart goes like “di-di-dah”; it’s a wonderful feeling.

Let me tell you a story…

It happened on a spring day last year as I was crossing the street at 22nd and 7th Avenue. I saw a young couple with their groceries crossing the street. Just when the traffic light changed to green, they dropped all their groceries in the middle of the street. Then, out of nowhere, people came to help them, and the traffic stopped. I gave a hug to the young man and said: “It’s ok.”

Edward’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, The worst of times, Uncategorized on February 19, 2015 at 7:41 pm

edward
“My problem’s unemployment,” says Edward, who’s been coming to the soup kitchen for the past three years.  “I don’t have a drug problem or a disability, it’s just really hard to find a job.”

Edward, who says he’s close to turning 50, goes to job fairs regularly where he “sees the same people [applying for jobs] over and over again. It’s disheartening.”

Having grown up in Harlem, Edward spent several years in Mexico after spending some time with his extended family in San Diego.  It was in Tijuana where he bought a small restaurant. Thinking he would follow in his father’s footsteps as a chef, he was thrilled with the idea that he could afford this investment after overhearing the seller pitch the restaurant to another potential buyer. “It was only $279.00 a month, and that other person couldn’t afford it.” Edward seized on what he thought was an opportunity of a lifetime.

But things didn’t go so smoothly for Edward once his business was up and running.  After failing to complete the local business permit processes he ended up getting a visit from the “Federales”, the Mexican equivalent of the FBI.  Without adequate legal counsel, Edward  found himself in jail  –  followed by deportation back  to the U.S.A. He had lost everything.

Edward made his way back to New York where he knew he would be facing homelessness and unemployment. During those first few months of transition, he noticed the line outside of Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. He got to talking with the people waiting in line and found out that not only did the soup kitchen provide a meal, it offered its guests necessities  like clothes and razors.

Edward has spent most of the last three years balancing his time between looking for regular, full time employment and getting  temporary, part time jobs.  He says, “You know, I could get a job today that would pay a lot of money but, you know that would involve crime. I’m almost 50 years old! It’s not the time to go start getting into the prison system.”

He muses about the people he’s known who’ve made money illegally through drugs or prostitution, spending their lives  in and out of jail.  He then makes an interesting point, “You can have dreams and ideals and high ethical standards for yourself and you don’t think you’ll ever do stuff like that. Lots of people with a lot of money don’t think they’d ever do that kind of stuff. But when your stomach is kicking your back out, that’s not so easy.”

Today, Edward is living in a small place in Brooklyn. He comes into Manhattan to  continue  his search for steady, full time employment and to stop by the soup kitchen so his own stomach doesn’t kick his back out.

“I remember being a kid and seeing the lines outside soup kitchens and thinking that everyone in there was lazy. But a lot of days, just having a meal, or getting a razor, stops me from making the wrong decisions. When you have nothing, a hot meal is a blessing.”  Coming from a former restaurateur, that means something!

 

Michael’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Soup Kitchen Stories, The worst of times on December 30, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Michael

Michael has relied on Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen for about ten years, on and off. When he was homeless and unemployed he came to the soup kitchen for emergency help. He is still a guest here to help make ends meet, and to help keep his spirits up.

His lowest moment came after he had worked ten consecutive days at a street fair, earning $1500. That was to be his security deposit on a rental room. Exhausted from working so hard, he fell asleep in Penn Station, only to wake up and find his money had been stolen.

“I started crying and saying to myself, ” I can’t do a shelter”. Then I looked around and I saw a lot of people worse off than I am and I said to myself, “Things happen. You’ve got to make another plan and pick yourself up.”

That outlook on life helped Michael seek out and find the resources that  sustain his strength and health, many of them right here at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

“When I was homeless, the counselors here pointed me in the right direction, to organizations that would help with different things. I lost my eyeglasses when I was sleeping on the street, so they helped me with that. I needed high blood pressure medicine, that was a big thing.”

Michael utilized the outreach services at the soup kitchen, like Single Stop and Urban Justice, to get him going in the right direction towards clothing, housing and access to medical services.

While all of this helped him get back on his feet enough to land another  job, he needed a current i.d. in order to start working again since his old expired license had been stolen as well. In a catch 22 situation, Michael couldn’t afford the new i.d. he needed in order to start earning money.  Frustrated, he brought a letter from the new employer, explaining the situation, to a pastor at the soup kitchen. The pastor gave Michael the money he needed for new identification.

Today, Michael is the primary caretaker for his disabled brother who in return pays Micheal a $300-a-week salary.  He still confronts the obstacles that come with low income in an expensive city. At the soup kitchen he finds a way not only to save on food costs, but also to  gain “the spiritual strength that I need on a daily basis.”

“Sometimes you give up hope but when you are in that spiritual circle, you can have some peace.”

Homeless

In Friendship, Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Prose, Soup Kitchen Stories on December 24, 2014 at 7:30 pm

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Homeless
by Ronnie Eisen

In 1977, I had entered the shelter system for approximately one month. Christmas was approaching, and I could not bear the idea that I must spend this day in the women’s shelter. I was broke and completely miserable.

I went to the phone booth and dialed the toll-free number for battered women. They told me they had room for me at Mother Theresa’s, and I could move in on Saturday afternoon. You can’t imagine how happy I was to be going away from the shelter.

I carefully packed my few belongings, leaving a few things behind for my new friends, Crystal and Mickey. I never told my counselor where I was going. I left him a note, thanking him for all his help. Then I just left, pretending to be going to the laundry.

I rode the train to Harlem with great happiness. The convent was even better than I thought it would be. We had no Christmas tree yet, but Mother put one up and let us all decorate it. We helped cook all the meals and cleaned the place. For once, there was no smoking and no violence. I really enjoyed the peace and quiet.

But then, the annoying thing happened. It was Christmas Day, and Mother told us we had to leave at eight in the morning and not come back until four in the afternoon. I had gotten sick at the party the night before, and I felt awful. I had no money at all and nowhere to go. Having never been in Manhattan on Christmas Day before, I imagined nothing would be open, I would freeze and die.

Suddenly, I remembered a story in the newspaper about Holy Apostles Church. I got a copy of the Tablet and checked the address. A Nigerian woman told me they would be serving Christmas dinner there. She too had no place to go. We made our way down from Harlem in the snow. We attended church at Holy Apostles and then went to the meal.

Everyone was nice to us, and several men gave us referrals to other soup kitchens that I have been going to ever since. I thank God for all the nice people I have met, and all the help they have given me.

My friend was able to reunite with her sister and find work in America. I’m still homeless, but I do work now and go to Holy Apostles whenever I can.

Ricky’s Story

In Guest stories, Soup Kitchen Stories, Uncategorized, Volunteer Stories, Who, where, how? on December 2, 2014 at 9:39 pm

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Ricky was homeless when he first came to Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen for lunch as a guest.  “Drugs and drinking were taking a toll on me,” he says, ” I was doing that because I was homeless. I had no hope. Everything was gone. When you’re homeless you don’t care about nothing. I numbed the pain of being homeless and hurting inside.”

Through the years, Ricky has faced a lot of loss within his own family, including his own divorce during his mid twenties. Two of his nine sisters and one of his three brothers have died of HIV related physical and mental complications. Another brother is living with HIV.

“I should be dead,” Ricky says,” I was blessed not to have it because of my own high risk behaviors.”

Like many homeless people, Ricky got to know the streets of New York. He noticed the long line around Holy Apostles Church and learned about the soup kitchen by talking to other guests. As he began eating lunch here on a regular basis, Ricky  found acceptance and “a love that was shown by the staff who were walking around and talking to me. The food was good, and a healthy quality” he recalls, “I kept coming back for the food, the service and the good, smiling faces.”

Then, through the support services and counseling offered at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, Ricky received vouchers for clothing, toiletries, phone calls, and even referrals to other places for food and showers.

“I became strong. I was like a dead flower but the love, caring and concern here made me blossom and bloom. Hope started coming back.”

Because of the emotional and practical support he received at the soup kitchen, Ricky had the strength to seek out housing resources on his own through other outlets and find the substance abuse treatment services he needed to continue his road to recovery. In 2010, when his housing situation had stabilized and he was clean and sober he approached our volunteer coordinator to see what he could do to give back.

Today, not only is Ricky a volunteer at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, he has also completed  a Manhattan based  HIV peer counseling program.

“I believe my calling is to help. This is the lifestyle I came from. I have empathy. I want to be a teacher to the younger generation.”