Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Archive for the ‘Volunteer Stories’ Category

Allen’s Story

In Soup Kitchen Stories, Stories, Uncategorized, Volunteer Stories, Who on August 22, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Allen SKS

Five year volunteer Allen Arthur remembers his first day at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, shortly after Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. Before working the tray station, he was quickly welcomed during the morning volunteer social hour. “A group of people saw me sitting alone and said ‘Come over and sit with us.’”

His motivation for coming back each week is simple; he loves being of service to others.

“I believe every time we feed somebody, they have another chance,” he says. “That meal could be the meal they have in their stomach when they go to a job interview.”

He remembers meeting one such guest while working the front door as a greeter. “He was working this job and they weren’t paying him. It was really hard, but he was interviewing for another job.” When the guest came back two weeks later, he told Allen “I got the job! I think you were my good luck charm!”

After Allen had been volunteering for a couple of years, he was asked to take on more responsibility as a volunteer coordinator. “It’s been a joy. It allows me more time to chat with volunteers and has freed me up to speak with more guests.”

Through his volunteer service, Allen finds parallels to his work as a journalist and his stories about the criminal justice system. “The people who come here aren’t just numbers, they’re stories,” he says. “And the first thing about those stories is that it’s never the stereotypical story about why they’re homeless or why they’re at a soup kitchen.”

Allen has also been one of our dedicated Fast-A-Thon fundraisers. “The Fast-At-Thon is an almost spiritual experience for me.” says Allen. “Many people walk around NYC and take for granted that we can go in and eat the thing producing that delicious smell….Imagine being confronted with all that and being totally unable to participate.”

What really sets Holy Apostles apart, Allen says, is the welcoming atmosphere and the kindness of the many dedicated volunteers.

“We’re doing this because we feel some combination of love, dedication, and obligation, some calling to this. That feeling that this place really has peoples’ backs, that’s important to me.”

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Volunteer Story: Elizabeth

In Uncategorized, Volunteer Stories on May 31, 2016 at 5:17 pm

SK Stories Elizabth

Think of a soup kitchen volunteer and your first image may be one of the many goodhearted people serving meals on the food line. But a lot goes in to serving about 1000 New Yorkers who come here for daily meal as well as emotional and practical support. The 50 to 60 volunteers who sign in each morning report to different assignments and stations that includes our social services program where volunteer advisers offer encouragement and essential resources that help our guests move forward and find hope.  Elizabeth, who runs her own fashion pr company when she’s not volunteering,  is one of these advisers, and one who has taken the meaning of soup kitchen volunteer to a whole new level.

“I have a lot of energy and I need to give away that energy,” she says.

Before volunteering at the soup kitchen Elizabeth had been volunteering as a one-to-one companion with an elderly woman and when that situation changed, Elizabeth immediately looked around for  a new way to give back. “Since I live about eight blocks away I would ride my bike past the soup kitchen and see the line, and I thought to myself, ‘I’m sure there’s a need there.'” Sure enough, when she stepped foot in the soup kitchen in February of 2015 for the first time, she was given a job right away, starting with a few weeks on the food line and busing tables before dedicating one day each week in our social services program.

“I’m a ‘people person’,” Elizabeth says, “And the people here have a kaleidoscope of needs.”  When she spent her first day listening to the range of needs our guests told her about,  our social services manager said, “Wow! We’ll keep you here!” and Elizabeth knew she had found the right match for her own volunteer goals.

For Elizabeth, it means a lot to not only offer a compassionate ear as she listens to our guests’ stories, but also to guide them toward practical solutions for their individual needs, solutions that range in urgency from hair cut vouchers to shelter referrals. While she has helps  many hundreds of guests to date, she keeps every session personalized because, she says,”Even making a difference to just one person makes it all worthwhile. That’s all you need to try to do – help one person.”
Bombas sock collageIt wasn’t long after Elizabeth volunteered weekly that she was eager to think about new ways to support our guests. Most recently, using her knowledge of the fashion industry, she decided she would reach out to apparel companies for sock donations —  a vital resource especially for our homeless guests who face severe health issues without clean socks. When she didn’t hear back from any of her established contacts she read about  Bombas, an innovative and socially responsible sock company that donates a pair of socks to the homeless for every pair that’s purchased.  After a swift response to her inquiry, Bombas worked with her to organize not only a group volunteer day, but the donation and distribution of  1200 new pairs of socks to our guests.

therapy dog jasper

This above-and-beyond project is only one of many actions Elizabeth takes to bring more comfort to our guests’ everyday lives. She’s recently added a second day to her busy busy schedule when she brings her therapy dog, Jasper, to our courtyard to meet and greet our guests after their meal. This gentle giant offers our homeless guests a respite of love and acceptance from the isolation they experience even on the most crowded city streets and subways trains.And for those who have a place to spend their nights but who are struggling with the stress that comes with poverty, the chance to play and connect with Jasper can be a gift of joy that lightens their day.

For all the work Elizabeth has done to go out of her way to make our guests’ days better, she does remember when a guest went out of his way to come back and thank her after they she had spent time advising him with practical resources and referrals.  “He came back up after he ate on his way out, and said that it just meant a lot to him… all the things we do,” she recalls.  “It made my day!”

 

Volunteer Rick Landman, and the Legacy of CBST

In Soup Kitchen Stories, Uncategorized, Volunteer Stories on April 22, 2016 at 2:18 pm

“Volunteering at Holy Apostles balances me and challenges me.” Rick Landman, soup kitchen volunteer, pictured here with Rev. Glenn Chalmers.

On any Thursday at the soup kitchen, the unmistakable and joyful volunteer presence of Rick Landman cannot be missed. A member of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, “CBST”, which held Friday night services at the church for many years, Rick has been a vital link that ties  together the history of these organizations sharing the same space. Rick has also been an ambassador of the welcoming  spirit and  legacy of LGBT activism that CBST and Holy Apostles embody.

A fixture in the history of Friday nights at Holy Apostles, CBST is now celebrating its first Passover in its new, permanent home, after moving earlier this month. We said goodbye to their physical presence and wished them well in their new home with a traditional procession that took the congregation through Holy Apostles for a blessing by Reverend Glenn Chalmers, seen here with Rick. We’re grateful to know the congregation is close by, and to know that Rick will still be representing their presence at the soup kitchen.

Rick’s first connection with Holy Apostles was in the early 1970s when the church became a temporary home for many fledgling gay and lesbian organizations following the Stone Wall riots. Among them was CBST – the first New York LGBT synagogue – which Rick came to in 1973. Twenty five years later, Rick was part of the search committee that selected the Church as a more permanent home for CBST’s Friday night Shabbat service.

Thinking back to his return with his congregation to Holy Apostles in 1998, Rick remembers how he didn’t know where he was at first, because of the major renovations after the 1992 fire.

Rick recalls how his perspective changed  when he and his congregation adjusted to holding Shabbat in a church,  “Going to a Church … opened up my perspective to understand how similar Episcopal Christians were to me. I also learned to not only appreciate the space but also the people that I met in the Church.”

It was only a matter of time before he naturally gravitated to the life of the soup kitchen.

“I did volunteer at the soup kitchen for a few Martin Luther King days when I worked full time, but when I retired from NYU in 2007, I started to volunteer every Thursday with the CBST group,” he remembers. Now, after volunteering 1,500 hours over nine years Rick says of the volunteers, guests and staff he has met at the soup kitchen: “They have given me so much love and support.”

The son of  two German Holocaust survivors,  Rick has dedicated his life to education, the law and civil rights. Even with the intergenerational pain from the Holocaust, and the challenge of growing up gay in the 1960’s, the guests’ stories at the soup kitchen often remind Rick of the fortunate circumstances he has been blessed with. “Coming from a rather sheltered life, volunteering at the Holy Apostles balances me and challenges me,” he says.

We’re glad Rick has no plans of retiring his volunteer apron any time soon. “I look forward to my time at the soup kitchen not only to see the staff and volunteers, but I have made many weekly friends of our guests who are helping me with life advice or just schmooze with me.  If I am gone a week, I am surprised when people notice and ask me where I was.”

We will  miss CBST,  and are gratified to know they are just a few blocks away, settling into their new home. And we’re comforted knowing the spirit of that congregation lives on through the dedication that Rick brings to the soup kitchen every Thursday.

Volunteer Story: Alex

In Uncategorized, Volunteer Stories on February 18, 2016 at 2:45 pm

SK Stories 2016-Alex

 

Alex started to volunteer on a weekly basis at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in 2012,
“after I had lost everything,” he says, “all in one year: my mom, my apartment, my job.”

 

While grieving his mother’s passing, and being forced to make severe cut-backs to his own quality of life, Alex knew he would have to find ways to cope with the losses in his life.

 

“I had to start over from the bottom,” Alex says, “Volunteering was something that I’d always wanted to do, and this was my chance to do it.”

 

A graduate from Rutgers University with a Bachelors in Marketing, Alex had enjoyed a successful eighteen year career in the wholesale clothing industry, moving up from Sales Associate to Vice President before his company took a drastic hit after the recession and he lost his job.

 

“I had always worked, ever since high school,” he recalls. “After moving to New Jersey from Puerto Rico at the age of 14, not speaking a word of English, I worked my way through ESL classes and then I worked my way through college as a waiter and as a gas attendant, many times seven days a week.”  During one point, between his classes and jobs, his days would start at 7 am and not end until 12 pm.

 

Despite having worked his whole adult life, Alex’s industry specific skills didn’t transfer easily in the post-recession corporate world where the competition remains fierce. So Alex continued to volunteer, because, “when I volunteer something is fulfilled in me, spiritually. The thought of helping the homeless completes me as a human being.”

 

He had heard about the resources our social services program offers our guests, but hadn’t thought to access them directly himself until one day, last year when he was talking to our manager for social services. “I was talking to Rich, and he gave me a listing of jobs. And you know what? The first job I went to I got!” Now, Alex is working for a catering company with good pay and scheduling flexibility. “It was here all along!” he says, “and I’m still able to volunteer here during the day since the hours are usually at night.”

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.”

Volunteer Story: Boris

In Friendship, Love, Soup Kitchen Stories, Volunteer Stories on December 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Borisjudi K

At 71, and living with Alzheimer’s disease, Boris has been part of the fabric of the soup kitchen for many years. He and his wife Judi are generous donors, and Judi fondly remembers Boris volunteering on holidays as far back as 1989.

“When he retired six years ago, and before his diagnosis, he decided to volunteer here every weekday,” she says. Judi worked beside her husband in their jewelry company for decades, and continues the family tradition with her own jewelry design company now.

“Boris was well loved and respected in the industry,” she states, recalling his years of building up a successful business after moving to Manhattan from Europe. Judi, a graduate of nearby F.I.T., met Boris through his uncle, a colleague of hers in the apparel business.

Now, Judi’s  grateful for the soup kitchen’s role in Boris’s life. “The progression has been slow, yet he can still do so much, and you give him things to do. He never wants to miss a day of volunteering. For him, it’s a purpose, this is his work.”

Boris enjoys getting the silverware and napkins ready for our daily meal where he’s often engaged in lively conversation with other volunteers, helps new volunteers with their aprons, and delivers drinks to the pianist of the day. “I just want him to be happy and get to do as much as he can do,” Judy adds, thankful the staff has become like a second family to Boris, and will call her with any concerns.

My experience as a Volunteer at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen on Thanksgiving Day

In holidays, Keeping hope alive, Volunteer Stories on November 20, 2015 at 5:59 pm

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I met some beautiful people in the soup kitchen, this man told me thank you for your kindness. Tell me what more can I ask for — a beautiful Thanksgiving Day at the soup kitchen. Then, I met some other volunteers and they told me they want to see me again next year.

This is my first Christmas without my mom. But I realize now there are many beautiful people out there. I didn’t see my friend George on Thanksgiving Day, but he told me a few days before, I will be ok.

-Charles Borges

Volunteer Story: Bill

In Soup Kitchen Stories, Volunteer Stories on October 16, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Bill Frick quoteWhen Bill retired six years ago, he knew he wanted to stay busy and keep a sense of purpose in his life.  After a full professional life as a massage therapist and vocational counselor, he decided to go to a volunteer fair to see what options were available to keep his days  meaningful. It was there that he  was introduced to Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen where he’s become a familiar face ever since.

“I signed up for volunteering here, and I’ve never needed to volunteer any where else,” Bill remarks, “There’s something for everybody here. At first I volunteered  five days a week, doing different things. When I started, I usually had the job of carrying the trays back to the kitchen.”

These days, even though he’s volunteering, “only two or three days a week”, Bill’s one of the first volunteers here on those mornings. That’s because as an Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, his job is to welcome the approximately sixty others volunteers, introduce new ones to the soup kitchen, and assign each of them one of the many jobs that’s essential to making the two hour meal  run smoothly. His experience volunteering in many of the roles at the soup kitchen, combined with his experience as a vocational counselor seems makes Bill a natural at this job, ensuring that ensure  that each assignment  matches and accommodates each volunteer’s unique needs and skills.

“It’s a privilege to be here,” Bill says, “I like helping to welcome volunteers and make them feel comfortable.”

Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen has become the  bedrock in Bill’s day to life and his consistent presence helps not only our volunteers feel comfortable, but gives our guests that sense of community and stability  it can be so hard to find elsewhere in their lives.

“It’s a great social place for me, that’s important,” Bill remarks. “The other volunteers are important to me, socially. They’ve become my friends. And you know there are guests who start to volunteer. That’s always great to see happen.”

Maria’s Volunteer Story

In Uncategorized, Volunteer Stories on March 17, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Maria-border

 

Maria, who retired in January 2014, didn’t take a break from slicing bread on the bitterly cold February morning she spoke with us.  She was eager to get through her task so that everything would be ready for our guests as they started to arrive.

“I want to spend my retirement giving back.  Maria recently said.  Six days each week she divides her time between Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen and other organizations around New York City.  “Even when I’m tired, I’m happy and at peace.”

Having lost her husband and daughter, Maria has known tragedy in her life.  She is philosophical about her losses, though.  “I asked God why.  This is why, so that I have time to serve others.” She thinks it’s her duty to help, too:  “When I see people lining up to eat … and I know I can eat whenever I want … I have to do this.”

Volunteering is also a way for Marie to be close to her sick mother, who lives in the Philippines.  “By helping people here, I’m there for my mother in spirit.”

“I want to do this for as long as I can.  I’m 63, so at least another 10 years.”  Here at the soup kitchen, we are thrilled to have Maria for as long as she’ll have us!

 

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.”