Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Archive for the ‘Volunteer Stories’ Category

Volunteer Story: Gregg

In Volunteer Stories on March 16, 2018 at 2:43 pm


When he’s not piloting around the world for JetBlue, Gregg likes to stay busy on his days off. And for him, that routine includes traveling over to Chelsea from Queens to volunteer at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. The music teacher turned commercial pilot discovered that his day-to-day routine changed dramatically when he changed careers.  A man of faith, he turned to his own church for help finding a food pantry or soup kitchen to volunteer his time and energy for, and they pointed him in Holy Apostles’ direction.

“It was super easy to sign up,” Gregg recalls from his first days with us in December, 2016. “I found they were very welcoming and open to volunteers, and what jobs the volunteers wanted.”

Gregg wanted to be as helpful as possible so he told the volunteer coordinator, “Put me where you need me.” Since then, he says, “I’ve done almost all the volunteer jobs here.”

His favorite job is greeting people when they come in. “It’s a time to talk, even if just briefly,” he says. “It can be anything, about the weather or about sports.” He notes the many guests he’s met who aren’t native New Yorkers, like himself, and how their shared geographical experiences form a friendly connection.

Gregg has certainly gotten a lot of mileage out of his volunteering so far, and has even been able to magnify his efforts through his employer. By logging his volunteer hours with JetBlue, the airline donates tickets to the nonprofit of his choice. He chose Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, and is contributing tickets to the upcoming Farm to Tray auction, when the highest bid will help to purchase ingredients and support our programs.

Since learning to fly as a hobby while he was an associate professor of music at colleges and universities, and eventually changing careers completely, Gregg has never shied from adventure. Most recently he has earned his commercial glider license: flying those planes that have no engines. But for Gregg, these leaps of faith don’t happen without persistence, planning, and hard work.

“Faith without works is dead,” Gregg says, quoting scripture, (James 2:17). “Volunteering is a practical way to exercise my faith.”


Volunteer Story: Rachel

In Volunteer Stories on March 7, 2018 at 9:39 pm

“I started the search for soup kitchens in the city after meeting James, a homeless teenager,” says Rachel, a Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen volunteer and dedicated Fast-A-Thoner.

“He was hungry most days, unable to find consistent food,” she recalls. After buying him food and helping him to get an ID so he could get into a shelter, she asked herself, “How could I help James on a greater level?”

Rachel knew the answer had to start with nutritious and reliable meals.

“He needed food,” she explains. “And I set on a mission to find a soup kitchen that provided daily meals.”

“The more people I spoke to, the more I realized how difficult it can be to find food,” she says, describing the irregular schedules offered elsewhere. “Holy Apostles operates FIVE days a week, serving approximately 1,000 meals per day!  The set up alone is something to marvel at. But what impresses me most is the true care that is given, and the gratitude that is received at Holy Apostles.”

A busy professional, Rachel volunteers whenever her schedule allows, often on holidays. By getting to know James, and getting to know Holy Apostles, she has become more motivated than ever to advocate for hungry and homeless New Yorkers.

I have participated in the Fast-A-Thon for two years now and plan to do so for years to come,” she explains. “It’s a great opportunity to spread awareness and motivate others to donate to this great cause.”

Each year on her Fast-A-Thon campaign page Rachel includes James in her story, and how she found Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen as a result of their connection. She has truly become an inspiration to others, helping them to understand the painful cost of food insecurity and homelessness.

“I have seen many elderly who have lost their housing due to rent increases,” she says. “I have seen older gay men who were abandoned by their families due to intolerance, and, of course, there is James, who became homeless at 18—with no one to offer guidance or support after he left foster care. Holy Apostles offers support and understanding to a population that is too often ignored.”

When Rachel looked for a food emergency program to help James, she didn’t imagine she would help find him so much more. “I have witnessed beautiful exchanges between patrons and volunteers,” she says. “Many know each other by name. Participants befriend one another. It is a true communal atmosphere where patrons receive sustenance for both soul and body.” 

Volunteer Story: Addie

In Volunteer Stories on March 7, 2018 at 7:22 pm
addie with soup kitchen stories

“Thank you guys for everything! I will really miss you all!” Soup Kitchen volunteer Addie launches her new career after dedicated several years of service to Holy Apostles.

Soup Kitchen volunteer coordinator Addie has big dreams on the horizon. We wished her farewell and good luck in February when she hung up her soup kitchen apron to begin training as a linguist for the U.S. Air Force.

Addie started volunteering at Holy Apostles during college, when she was taking a nutrition class and looking for a place to give back to and learn about emergency food operations.

“My first impressions of HASK were ‘Wow, this place is huge!’” she remembers. “The first time I came I was a bit nervous and not sure what to expect.” Any nerves she felt were immediately put to rest however after meeting the volunteer coordinator and being shown around. “I was impressed with how kind everyone was.”

Addie decided to come back again, and before long volunteering at the soup kitchen became a regular, weekly practice. One day, she heard the announcement for a volunteer coordinator opening and it was just the opportunity she knew she could find personal growth and valuable experience from.

“I wore many hats as a coordinator. Sometimes my job was to show new volunteers around, sometimes it was to call and confirm with groups and answer any questions they may have. Sometimes it was to type up things for the writers’ workshops, volunteer notes, or any kind of signage we needed. One time I helped at a volunteer information fair, and another time I helped a guest by calling his health insurance and trying to track down his replacement card. There was rarely a dull moment!” 

Addie believes this experience in a nonprofit environment is something that has prepared her for the future.“I realized I really find that kind of service gratifying. I’ve met people from so many different backgrounds, volunteers and guests alike, and I think that has really broadened my horizons as they say” She is also grateful for the guidance she received from our Volunteer Managers. “They have both been great mentors to me and have taught me leadership skills I hope to apply to all my future endeavors.”

Today, as Addie “takes flight” toward her new and exciting career, we are grateful for her years of devotion helping other volunteers, and helping New Yorkers find nourishment at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. We wish her all the best!

Find out more about Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

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!

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.”

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.