Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

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Lilli’s Story

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2018 at 2:03 pm

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Fleeing traumatic and abusive events in her home town, Lilli came to New York from Europe one year ago. Having no connections in the city and no money, she soon ended up living on the streets in Greenwich Village. “I spoke English, but I was very afraid,” she said. “I didn’t know who I could trust.”

Finding food was difficult, and she admits she sometimes resorted to eating from the trash and panhandling to survive. “I would go to the park and wait until someone threw something away, then I would finish it,” she says. When someone stopped to give her money one day, they also gave her some valuable information about the city’s soup kitchens. Soon she made her first visit to Holy Apostles.

Lilli’s voice fills with emotion when she recalls first entering the soup kitchen one year ago. “I cried the first time I came here, when I heard the live music. It had been so long. I was overwhelmed.”

Soon she learned that the soup kitchen could offer much more than just a hot meal. “I found out I could use this address to get my mail,” she says. She met with our social services counselors who helped connect her with more resources, and she attended many of our classes and activities. “I went to the computer class. I watched films on Tuesdays. I relaxed. I slowly started to feel more comfortable.”

“I was treated with such respect and such kindness,” Lilli remembers with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know if you can really understand how that feels. It was shelter in the fullest and best sense of the word.”

Fortunately, Lilli eventually moved off the streets and into a nearby homeless shelter. A program connected to the shelter helped her find a job washing dishes, where she began to develop an interest in the culinary world, specifically in chocolate-making. With financial support from an employment preparation program she was able to take a chocolate class, using MetroCards from Holy Apostles for travel between the class and the shelter. She also relied on our computer lab to search for jobs online, develop her resume, and print copies for applications. Eventually her hard work paid off when she landed a part-time position training with a professional chocolatier.

“I went to her and explained my situation,” Lilli says. “You know what she said to me? She said, ‘People who are different aren’t a problem for us.’”

Lilli is currently enjoying her experience working and studying at the chocolate shop, and has ambitious plans for the future. She hopes to find another part-time job soon to have health insurance, and to save up enough money to move out of the shelter and into an apartment. She also has dreams of using her chocolate education to eventually open her own business, maybe a cart or a stand at the farmers’ market.

“When I think about all that I’ve lost, of course it’s very painful,” says Lilli, starting to tear up again, unable to speak of the tragedy and fear she left behind. “But you have to move forward.”

Thanks to the Holy Apostles community, she now has something to look forward to. “I love to come back here to let people know. It started here at Holy Apostles. It healed my spirit.”

 

 

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Volunteer Story: Larry

In Uncategorized on April 19, 2018 at 7:49 pm

After Larry retired from a successful banking career, his good friend told him about the rewarding
volunteer positions in the social services program at Holy Apostles. “I had always wanted to volunteer at a soup kitchen, so I gave it a try,” Larry recalls about his first day here in 2014.

With the support of other volunteers and staff, Larry caught on quickly to the job of meeting one-to-one with our guests, listening and counseling them about their options for health, housing, employment resources and benefits.

“The social services team was very knowledgeable and I was impressed with the training I received at the beginning,” Larry remembers, adding, “I used what I learned working with people in banking: identifying their needs, helping them move in the right direction, motivating them.”

Since those first few days, Larry has been part of the life of the soup kitchen more than he could ever have imagined. In 2015 he signed on as one of our computer lab teachers, and he has been an avid fundraiser for our annual Fast-A-thon. The 70-year-old long distance runner isn’t new to marathons and giving his all to whatever he’s involved in.

“I’m naturally competitive,” he laughs.“But when friends support me in the Fast-A-Thon, that’s something special … that feels good.”

Larry knows how much success can depend on support and encouragement from others. Thinking about the guests he’s helped along the way he says, “When they come back, after they’ve gotten a job, or the help they needed, and they’ve said ‘thank you’ for my help — that feels really good too!”

The Rider Thomas

In Uncategorized on March 8, 2018 at 7:28 pm

Image result for knight horseback

High upon my ride

Looking on the floor below

Trampled toys, broken bones, mangled furniture

Destroyed monsters below.

 

It looks better on top, riding over the destruction below

And I can control it

Let me take it anywhere, over the lamp, the sofa, my toy box.

 

Or maybe I should take off the leash

Let it destroy you

Let you rest with the bones and toys

For not giving me that blueberry raisin cookie last Monday night!

 

But then, I’d have to get a new mom.

 

Thomas Clarke

Volunteer Story: Joe

In Uncategorized, Volunteer Stories on March 7, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Joe remembers driving by Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen with his wife many years ago. A parish administrator at a church that has a small weekend emergency food service program, she knew about Holy Apostles and raved about the soup kitchen. He remembers saying, “Hmm, maybe I’ll volunteer there when I retire.”

Fast-forward to 2018 and Joe is indeed retired, and also in his ninth year volunteering at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.  “I’ve done every job,” he says. “My favorite job used to be a runner. I like to be in the middle of things.”

Joe spent most of his career managing affiliate relations for major TV networks, but after downsizing left him searching for new work, he tried food service management for a friend who owned a restaurant. “I was there to fill in for someone, but I ended up staying, helping out with management and the books before I got offered a job at CBS.”

With his twice weekly volunteer service on the extra-bread line, it’s clear how much dedication Joe gives to every pursuit. The team of regular volunteers, he says, “is a well-oiled machine,” and he has a good time with others who share his commitment, and who he has developed friendships with.

When he doesn’t see a regular guest for a while, Joe says he gets concerned about their safety and well-being. But, he’s hopeful their absence means they no longer need emergency food. “There was one guest, he called himself ‘Scorpio,’” he recalls. “He told me he was getting housing, and then I didn’t see him again.”

If you see Joe, you can ask him about his matchbook collection and the whole world around this hobby that he’s also been dedicated to for years. “I’m a phillumenist,” he says, explaining that that’s what matchbook collectors call themselves. “It translates to ‘lover of light.’”

We’re thankful for the light Joe continues to shine on our Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen community!

Untitled (A Work in Progress)

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2018 at 3:41 pm

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There once was a young peasant named Terragon who was but a humble laborer. He toiled in the muck in Earthland to the Lord of the region.

“How I dream of a finer sort of life,” mused humble Terragon. “I wonder how the Lord and Lady of the region live?”

Terragon looked up at the towering castle of stone in the daylight. Inside he visualized the Lord of the region drinking dry martinis from a golden chalice laden with jewelstones, streaming pay per view movies on his looking glass, eating leg of ham and turkey bits.

“Quit that fantersizing!” screamed a one-eyed foreman. “There’s toiling to be done.”

He cracked a large whip.

That night Terragon fell sleepwards in his thatched-roof cottage. Just as he was on the precipice of a pleasant night-dream, forgetting his woes, a specter manifested in an internal flash. Terragon leapt up in fright.

“Hello?” he said, cautiously eyeing the phantasm who appeared surrounded in ectoplasm flame with a leather v-shaped headpiece, red horns, and cape black on the outside and red within.

“Salutations, young sir, you may know me as Asmodel.”

“Welcome Asmodel, to what, might I query, bringeth me the honor of your personal audience at such a nightly hour?”

“Terragon, be not surprised that I know thou name nor of the wisdom that I possess of your secret heart. For I abode in the infernal realm of abyss and from this place many things are known to me,” Asmodel shed his cape dramatically. “For it was today that I saw you philosophizing the material world in the field. Tell me, Terragon, if you had a dream, one sole wish, what would it be?”

“Well, I ‘spose, Mr. Asmodel, mayhaps I would be enchanted, a little, by the Earth-like comforts, only the small indulgences, like mayhaps I wouldn’t have to toil about, field-wise no longer. Oh, also that I might enjoy some delicious berry tart that I so oft see being delivered to the Lord of the region’s castle. But such are only dreams, Mr. Asmodel, for I am naught but a humble serf.”

“Terragon, you are entitled to a dream, and there may be solution to your hapless position. What if I told you that I could offer you a STUDENT LOAN?”

“A student loan, Mr. Asmodel, sir? Pardon me if I’m in obscurity as to the meaning of these learned words, sir, for I am not literate being a peasant as I am.”

“Quite simply a student loan is a contract whereupon you offer unto me your immortality for gold.”

“I didn’t know I had an immortality, sir, least ways, not that I could find.”

“I mean to say your inborn soul, Terragon.”

“Excuse me for saying so sir, but it seems like a faulty constructed model of economics, for, why if serfs could trade souls, gold would be as plentiful as mothdust.”

“Yes, I suppose you are right. Well there is another way. You keep your immortality, but you must pay back your student loan in two years.”

“But I am merely a serf! How will I find the gold to pay back my loans?”

“You can make month to month payments.”

Terragon pondered dreaming of his own castle and princess. He did not want to toil in the field tomorrow, and didn’t know if he could bear another week or year of toilage. In the end Terragon accepted. A scroll appeared from black smoke and a quill, and Asmodel drafted the contract.

I, Terragon, do openly swear in covenant in my own will and by witness of the infernal familiar Asmodel,

Whereas I am a miserable serf of Earthrealm

Whereas I subsist off gruel and do toil in the muck,

Whereas I have no gold, no past, no future,

And in effect nothing to lose,

I hereby make this bing covenant to take out a student loan.

“Now you must sign your name in blood and seal the document.”

Terragon whimpered, “In blood sir?”

“Yes,” answered Asmodel, “Only in spilled blood can the student loan be sealed.”

Terragon took a needle from the nightstand and poked his pinky finger several times.

“Ouch,” he whispered.

Finally, several drops of blood spilled out and he was able to sign. Terragon was informed that the Full Moon, not this Full Moon but the next Full Moon, he would receive the first disbursement of his student loan, which came in four disbursements. Afterwards, Asmodel departed theatrically by fire and cape.

Terragon decided the next morning to depart seeing as how he now had a student loan. He was free to seek his own destiny, and it would be prudent to escape the foreman and other serfs, and start from the beginning in some other realm.

He gathered his things, a few crusts of dry bread, some scrips and scraps, half of a potato, and his lucky rock and journeyed into the wide open Earthland.

Terragon traveled the countryside until two Full Moons had passed. Inexplicably there was no sign of gold nor of Asmodel. He decided to visit an augur at the edge of the grove to see if he could contact Asmodel about the first disbursement.

“I have been expecting you,” cried an old, withered crone from the inside of a hut surrounded by chimes, and talismans, and fetishes.

Terragon travelled the countryside until he came to a large valley. Light seemed to loom over it forever. An ancient man sat in a rock. Terragon looked at the man who seemed to be staring into space absently.

“Morning, sir,” said Terragon with a cheerful tone.

The man continued gazing. This was a peculiar sight to Terragon, who had not done much travelling and had little knowledge of customs different from those of his small village.

“Might you be waiting to cross this valley, sir?”

The old man looked up, a glaze in his eyes.

He spoke in a creaking, raspy voice weathered but sure, “Me? Oh I’ve been waiting here for five thousand years.”

He draped a tattered, colorless canvas throw around his shoulders. His skin was covered in soot and his grey mouth opened to reveal he had no teeth.

“Strange, it seems I have forgotten what I was waiting for.” The remaining strands of wispy, white hair whipped about his head. He leveled a bony finger and pointed to a vast expanse of sand beneath a tempestuous black storm.

Millions of tickets fluttered the landscape each bearing a meaningless symbol in an ancient language.

“I shall warn thee, if thou shalt continue…That no man was ever known who continued from here and lived to tell the tale…”

Lightning crackled in the distance and the wind made a sucking, howling sound.

“Turn back now, child, for you are about to enter…”

The lightning and thunder really struck up, competing in volume with the old man’s futile theatre when he said, “THE DESERT OF BUREAUCRACY!!!”

He cackled a dusty, foreboding whimper, “But before you can enter, you’ll have to fill out a proof of eligibility form and provide valid I.D.”

Terragon had no I.D. and so crossed the desert alone. He travelled many weeks, suffering many hardships which I will not relate in details as they are of little interest.

At last he came to an abandoned circus. A large Ferris Wheel spun slowly and there were the rusty faces of clowns on shooting gallery games. He headed to a giant tent in the center of the ghost circus. There was a mechanical fortune-teller.

“Excuse me, I am looking for the financial aid office.”

The mechanical gypsy sprang to life, a yellow gleam in its eyes. “Yes the financial aid office – I’ll tell you where it is, but first you must answer this riddle.”

Terragon scratched his head. He was beginning to wonder, why must this be so difficult? He dared not question the gypsy for fear of making it angry.

“Sure,” he replied politely.

By Dylan

 

 

 

 

 

Case Manager Appointment

In employment, fiction, Poetry, Uncategorized on February 22, 2018 at 4:49 pm

 

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Clock ticking loudly, half past nine

Buzz, buzz, beep goes the printer, not dot matrix

The shot of the gun on the gator on the TV

In the other room

Further away, but louder than you

 

My heart beating loudly, tapping fingers on the desk

Android phone beeps and trills

Intercom blares, clients see your case managers

Vocal clicks of the keyboard

But still louder than you

 

But I’m supposed to pay attention to you

And you’re the one who’s supposed to help me

Get off that chair

Find a job worthwhile

And find something to sleep in better than a chair

Or car or shelter bed that only costs 30% of my income

 

And try to find a place

All my furniture rests on your shoulders

But you’re quieter than a church mouse

Maybe all my life is just disorganized noise

And you’re not worth listening to

Maybe the thoughts in my head are just louder than you

 

By Thomas Clarke

David’s Story

In Uncategorized on January 23, 2018 at 3:27 pm

David's story

Homeless and unemployed for over eight months, soup kitchen guest David has been through a great deal recently. But his faith, along with support from the soup kitchen, have helped him stay hopeful and strong in the face of hardship. A trained graphic designer, David lost his job unexpectedly when his former business partner betrayed him, leaving him broke and unable to pay rent.

His financial troubles worsened the already chronic family conflict he lived with, and before he knew it, he found himself without a place to live. For a while he was able to stay with friends, moving from place to place while working a part-time custodial job. But when they could no longer host him he ended up on the streets. “I grew up in New York and heard stories about the shelter system, so I didn’t want to go to a shelter,” he recalls. “I would sleep on the subway, or the bus, anywhere I could find.”

In addition to the practical stresses of surviving on the street, David also struggled with the shame and cultural stigma attached to homelessness. During this time he still went to work reliably, but because he was unable to shower regularly and keep up with haircuts, his coworkers began to suspect he was homeless and gossiped about him.

“I was being harassed,” he says. “It was a bad situation.” Doing everything possible to keep his job, he worked late nights off the clock while managers turned a blind eye. Despite his efforts however, he was eventually let go. His future seemed bleak, but David, who is a Christian, had faith that God was looking out for him. “I knew that He would get me out,” he says. “I just wasn’t sure how.”

Help came one night in the form of an outreach worker who approached David in a train station and offered to help him enroll in a transitional program to find housing. But first he needed to have a statement from a social worker proving he was homeless. That’s how he first came to Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

The social services team was “very positive and professional,” David says. The counselors helped him right away with a haircut voucher, “the first haircut I’d had in months.” They also gave him a list of other resources and services he could access nearby, and Metro Cards to travel to doctors’ appointments.

“The meals were so helpful,” he says, remembering the first few times he ate here. “I thought, these people really care. They’re not just serving anything. It’s a good, quality meal.”

David has a loyal companion in his fiancée of several years, who has stayed by his side even through his recent struggles. Today, he’s already in the second step in a transitional housing program and hopes to be placed in an apartment soon. He is determined to one day return to his art practice and go back into business again.

“I love and appreciate Holy Apostles for the goodness it does for people,” David says. “It helps us all in so many more ways than one.”

 

William’s Story

In Soup Kitchen Stories, Uncategorized on December 18, 2017 at 4:27 pm

Homelessness can happen to anyone, something 71 year old soup kitchen guest William discovered this past summer.

“For the first time in my life, I’m homeless,” he said in September of 2017.“It’s been a month and a half since I lost my apartment.”

“I always worked, ever since I was 18 years old…until a couple of years ago,” he said. For most of his career, he was a shipping and receiving clerk. In his later years he worked in the mail room at a New York City homeless shelter.

Because of his work in the homeless shelter, William did know that he could find a meal at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. He wasn’t expecting his hope to be restored too though, when he first sat down with one of our social services counselors.  “She told me I was eligible for Medicare, housing and food stamps,” he said brightly. “And she even helped me complete the application on-line…I never knew about all those things.”

When he retired, William had accrued a small 401k plan, but sadly, he developed heart and lung problems that landed him in the hospital. He still needs regular monitoring, treatment and medication for these conditions. “The medical bills wiped out my 401k, so now I only get a little social security,” he explained.  “That’s why I lost my apartment.”

An only child and the last remaining member of his family alive, William packed up his belongings and put them in storage in a friend’s basement late this summer. A good friend of his told him he should stay at a shelter but, he says with determination, “I don’t want to go to there, not if I can help it.” So for now, the 71 year old sleeps on a park bench on the upper West Side.

“I don’t know how to be homeless,” he told me, “At my age, it’s not something I’m used to doing.”

The soup kitchen has quickly become a refuge from the harsh realities of street homelessness, and a place to figure out his next steps. “I get my mail here now, and I’m taking care of business. It’s a chance to take care of my health, and have a few peaceful moments.”

But, he says, he’s been longing for the comforts of the his old apartment, the home he knew for years where he would often host holiday celebrations with this friends.

“Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday,” William recalls. “I love to cook, and especially to cook for my friends. I’m used to having my own kitchen, and home cooked meals.”

To help us continue to serve guests like William, click here.

Wendy’s Story: Remembering the Fire

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2017 at 2:09 pm
Wendy

Wendy Shepherd

The Great Fire of 1990

It was Monday in Holy Week, April 9, 1990. I had been working at Holy Apostles for two years. It was a lovely early spring day and I was busy preparing the Easter bulletins. Around 4 PM the doorbell rang and someone said that they saw smoke coming from our newly installed slate roof. Workmen were up on the 28th Street side of the building working with an acetylene torch. I called down to our then Operations Manager, Scott Wing, who said he would go and check it out. There had been an earlier issue, but the workmen told Scott that they had stopped the small area that had sparked. Reassured that all would be well, and feeling a bit beleaguered from preparing materials for Holy Week services, we left the office for the evening.

After I left, someone passing by the 28th Street side of the building reported in to the folks at worship: “Hey you better leave your building is on fire!” They evacuated the service and the AA meeting in the mission house and the alarms to the Fire Department were called in. The fire had reignited under the area where our organ sits today. I’ve seen picture of folks standing outside watching the flames eat away at the roof.

I did not find out about the fire until about 9 PM that night on the evening news when the newscaster stated that a Chelsea Church had burned. Uh-oh, I thought. Could it be Holy Apostles? Why yes, that was the picture I saw come up on the screen. Ten minutes later our Director of Administration, Father David Norgard, called, asking staff to come in the next day.

I arrived in the morning and was shocked to see a gaping hole in the side of the church. So many of the priceless stained glass windows had been damaged, including both of the rose windows. One of the windows in my office had been broken.

It was cold in the office. We worked without electricity – but Con Edison was on site to get us powered back up. The Salvation Army donated some food to use to operate the soup kitchen. We got partial power to the building restored by the afternoon – enough to serve our guests. Many folks dropped by to express their condolences over the fire. One person brought us flowers. The night of the fire, someone in the Penn South Houses next door had offered to provide shelter for some of our vestments, which were rescued before the smoke or water could damage them.

That afternoon, Father Bill Greenlaw corralled the staff and told us that, yes the fire was bad and we’d lost a lot, but the vestry was resolved, as were the parishioners, that we would rebuild and resume worshiping fully at Holy Apostles, as well as continue the work of the soup kitchen. By Wednesday we had full power in the building – thank you Con Edison!

Four years later on Saturday, April 23, 1994, with a procession from our temporary home at the General Theological Seminary led by Bishop Grein up Ninth Avenue, the Church of the Holy Apostles returned to worship at 296 Ninth Avenue. During the restoration planning meetings it had been decided that we would redesign the interior without reinstalling the church pews to create a more flexible worship space and a dining room for our soup kitchen guests. The soup kitchen began using its glorious new dining room in May of 1994. We also had a lovely reception in late May for the fire fighters who helped to save our building.

Restoring the Stained Glass Windows

Raymond Clagnan (formerly of Rambusch Studios – an eminent stained glass studio) came to work for Holy Apostles during our restoration. His workshop was located in the choir loft. Ray, Nancy Howell, Bruce Gutelius and one intern, Dana Legg, were tasked with putting together the jigsaw puzzle of glass shards left after the fire. They did an exemplary job of restoring the many church windows, matching stained glass in some of the shards tiny indeed. They also fashioned the windows in our narthex – one of the best recycling projects ever, using all of the pieces that could not be fitted into the restored windows to create the new ones.

Soup Kitchen Window PaneRay’s father, Bruno Clagnan, came by to visit his son and our in-house “glass shop” and liked the work we were doing for the hungry guests who come to our door every weekday. Bruno was also a stained-glass designer and gifted us with an original design, honoring not only the work of the soup kitchen, but also the craftsmen and women who helped to restore our fire-damaged church. The window was installed shortly after the restoration was complete and opened as the dining space for our guests. You’ll notice that there is no end date on the stained glass – that is because we continue to serve today, and have only ceased operation in the event of a shelter order from the city of New York.

 

–As told by Wendy Shepherd, Senior Administrator

 

Anthony’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Soup Kitchen Stories, Stories, The worst of times, Uncategorized on October 10, 2017 at 5:21 pm

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Soup Kitchen Guest Anthony was born in South Carolina but came to New York with his family as a child. One of seventeen children, his home life was troubled from an early age. “I came from a dysfunctional family: alcohol, drugs, prostitution,” he says. “When I got a little bit older, I took that on too. I first sold drugs when I was nine years old. Then I started cutting school.”

Anthony was eventually taken away from his parents and lived in various group homes and with different foster care families. Having no family or stable living situation, he turned to drug use to cope with his sadness, confusion and fear. By the time he was 18 he had become homeless, living on the streets of Midtown, and was addicted to drugs.

“I was bouncing back and forth between detox, using drugs, and sleeping on the streets,” he recalls. It was during this time that he first found Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, and started visiting every day to eat. Though he wasn’t yet ready to accept the help that he needed, those meals helped keep him alive until he could find the strength to make a change.

Sadly, it would take a long time before Anthony would make a full recovery. Just as he left the foster care system, and now an adult, he spiraled even further, ending up in prison for 15 years. By that point Anthony had become a father himself, but he had no contact with his children. After completing his sentence he was released with no support system in place, he quickly returned to homelessness and drug use.

His turning point came in 2012, when a little girl gave him a dollar. She said that her mother had told her to give it to him because he was “a bum.”

“I had enough money to buy drugs that night, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it,” he remembers. He had always refused help from homeless outreach workers, preferring to stay on the street and continue to use drugs, but that night, when their van pulled up and they offered to take him to shelter, he got in.

“It was 6 degrees below zero when they picked me up,” he says. “I had no shoes. I hadn’t showered in five months. I was embarrassed.” When he got to the shelter he was greeted at the front door and offered something to eat. He told them all he wanted was to take a shower.

“I stayed in that shower for over an hour,” he remembers. “When I came out, I looked like a raisin.”

That long, hot shower was Anthony’s first step toward accepting help and turning his life around. He went through detox and stayed clean this time, then moved on to get his own apartment in a supportive housing unit, which he shares with his two dogs that once lived with him on the streets. Now he is even reunited with his children, after many years with no contact.

“It took a long time to build up their trust because they all thought I would go back to using drugs,” he says. “It started with just conversations here and there. Now they’re always coming over to my apartment.”

Today, the soup kitchen is a place where Anthony can find a meal, but it’s also more than that. “God knows I’m grateful,” he says.  “I come here to stay grateful.” After years of homelessness and time spent in prison, the soup kitchen is a reminder of how far he’s come, and that there is some stability in the world, a place that didn’t give up him, where he can find community and kindness.

“I have people depending on me now. My kids trust me. I trust me, and that’s the most important thing.”