Tuesday, June 29, Serving on the Street

Spiderman Daylily
Spiderman Daylily

Please note that the 29th is the last Tuesday of the month, so we will be serving on the street that night. If you can make sandwiches or bring fruit, that would be great! If you want to ride down there with me to help serve, give me a call.

This does not take the place of Thursday night. It is in addition to it. We are hoping to expand our ministry to both Tuesdays and Thursdays. We are hopeful that this is possible, since we have seen such a marked increase in volunteer participation and food donations. We can use more financial support for supplies, for Delaware ministry startup, for direct aid, etc.

Laying the Groundwork in Delaware

On a Sunday evening in May, I drove down to the University of Delaware to meet with the Orthodox Christian Fellowship. It was finals week and it wasn’t their normal meeting night, so turnout was small. That was OK. I wanted to talk to the leaders who would be staying in the area to see this thing through. We talked about how to get the lay of the land, so we can discover what needs to be done. I do not think that a ministry among the poor in Delaware will look much like what we do in Philadelphia. Pray for Garret, Eric, Basil and me as we explore, network, infiltrate, reconnoiter, study and pray, that we may be led by the Holy Spirit to just the sort of service that is right for The King’s Jubilee to initiate in northern Delaware to the glory of God.

Donations Gladly Received

We are grateful for the support that we receive in the form of sandwiches, canned goods, turkeys, hotdogs, hams, etc. We can use more clothing to give away right now. So men it’s time to clean out your closets and dressers. We need summer clothes. So when you receive new shirts for Father’s Day or from the golf tournament or walk-a-thon you participated in; give last year’s shirts to us (or this year’s; who’s to know?). It may seem odd, but we can use blankets. Occasionally nights can get chilly and for some a quilt serves instead of a mattress.

We can also use money. Money pays to keep the TKJ-mobile on the road. I would not need a car, except for this ministry. Money pays for cups, spoons, napkins, vegetables, spices, freezers, cookware and hot sauce. Also, we like to be able to help people out with direct aid at times, or to buy something specific when they have a need, like steel toed workboots for the guy who is starting a new job. The Walkabout last Saturday cost money in honoraria to our three resource people and to the man whose camp we toured. The icon business offers me a flexible schedule to be able to keep things moving, but not enough income to subsidize the ministry financially. If we have more, we can do more.

To make a donation, visit the Contact Us page. Thank you. May God abundantly bless you.

June 17

Last night I left the TKJ-mobile parked at church. Fr. Noah drove his van and I rode shotgun. Three of the Busheli children and Todd Moore rode in back.  We brought a cooler full of split pea and beef frank soup, a five gallon cooler of iced tea, two gallons of orange juice, cups, forks, napkins, two banana boxes full of cakes, pies and cupcakes, several bags of sandwiches, napkins, misc. groceries, a small birthday cake and hot sauce. The Godshalls were waiting for us at the park with hard-boiled eggs. Presvy. Joanna, Matthew and Mary arrived with trays and trays of flounder stuffed with crab, fancy green beans, rice pilaf, Greek salad and large portabello mushrooms. Someone brought a big box or oranges and dinner rolls. Serge dropped off more sandwiches. The McGraws arrived with spaghetti and more sandwiches.

The trays of fish, rice and vegetables were leftover from Fr. John Limberakis’ funeral mercy meal, so it became a true, traditional mercy meal last night. May his memory be eternal! His obituary is currently on Holy Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church home page.

There was a long line and it moved slowly. It was a complicated meal to serve. Those serving the soup and the spaghetti served everyone who wanted that as they waited in line for the rest. When I went to the back of the line to offer hot sauce for the spaghetti or soup, some of the guys grumbled about the line moving so slowly. I told them what we were serving and that there was plenty. They said, in that case, they would wait. They were very grateful for such a special treat. Some of them had not had any fish for years. Once again, we managed to give away almost all of the food. I think there were a few green beans leftover.

When we were done serving the meal, I got the small birthday cake out of the van, put a couple of candles on it and lit them.  Craig Godshall and one of his daughters and I sang happy birthday to Rashon. His birthday is today and mine was Monday. It’s kind of a big deal to him that we celebrate together each year.

It is summer. This is our biggest season. Crowds are bigger. We need more food, more volunteers, more clothing to give away, more supplies, etc. Please make The King’s Jubilee part of your summer plans. You will be blessed for it.

June 10 & 12

Things went rather strangely last Thursday. I made turkey and green bean soup, loaded up the TKJ-mobile, stopped by St. Philip’s to pick up sandwiches and headed for the city. I arrived as scheduled at 8 PM. The Godshalls, Fr. Joseph & Matushka Cathy were waiting for me along with Susie. We unloaded the vehicle. Father said a prayer and we began to serve. People kept asking if the spaghetti was coming. I told them I thought so; I hadn’t heard anything different from the McGraws. Time wore on, still no spaghetti. At about 8:35 Stephanie and Valerie show up with box drinks and a story of a terrible accident that had blocked I-95. They had finally been able to get off and find their way on local roads. They told us that Fr. Christos and Presv. Joanna were on their way, but they had gotten stuck in a jam up as well. They and Mary arrived at about 8:40 with a big box of oranges and something else. Everyone who showed up, even the stragglers got something to eat and iced tea or ice water to drink.

There were not near as many people there as the week before, so we didn’t need the spaghetti, sandwiches and peanuts that the McGraws tried to bring. We were worried about them, though. Fred also had some complication and could not make it, even though we had spoken just a couple of hours before. Fred would have been able to call Philip on his cellphone to get the story. I don’t own a cellphone and didn’t have Philip’s number on me.

When I got home at about 10:45, I was about to call the McGraws to find out what happened, when the phone rang. It was Vicki telling me that there had been a terrible accident on the Schuylkill Expressway, blocking it. They had sat in the traffic jam, creeping by inches for over an hour. When they finally got an opportunity to get off, it was 9:40 and they weren’t even to Conshohocken. They decided to go home. The problem with that was the pot of spaghetti and the sandwiches, neither of which freeze well. We decided we could divide the spaghetti into sealable portion containers and give it away on Saturday’s walkabout as well as the sandwiches and peanuts along with the power packs that St. Philip Neri RC Church was providing for the event.

It worked out perfectly. We had enough to give everyone that approached us something to eat on Saturday. So even when the forces of evil and confusion try to block us, God can turn the situation inside out and use it to his glory. Every week, it’s another adventure! I wonder what God has in store for us tomorrow.

Glory to God in all things!

June 3

On Thursday night two weeks ago, we had so much food to give away, I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to. I made beanie-wienie and picked up iced tea, orange juice, hot sauce, cups, napkins, forks and two big boxes of pastries. The folks from Holy Annunciation brought lamb, potatoes, chicken legs, rice and homemade cookies, all leftover from their OPA Festival. They also brought hard-boiled eggs, 120 homemade brownies and fruit. Other folks at St. Philip’s made sandwiches. There were a few other things that I am not remembering at the moment. I heard someone comment that the food went for $15 a plate at the OPA Festival and it was worth it. Presv. Joanna was concerned when she saw so much food that we were going to end up going home with half of it. It was June 3. Our numbers are normally way down at the beginning of the month, since any who get checks have just gotten them and are less likely to be dining on the street.

Well, there had to have been over 150 people who came through that line. We gave everything away. We hung out for quite a while, so even the stragglers got a decent meal. We hadn’t planned to have so much food, but once again, despite our best plans, God supplied what we needed. I was disappointed that I could not get anyone to do Greek dancing. It was a festive atmosphere all the same.

A New Perspective!

I would feel remiss if I did not share some thoughts on behalf of my family on what Cranford has so aptly referred to as “the most amazing tour of center city Philadelphia”. My husband Craig, “the girls” and I joined 18 of our brothers and sisters in Christ Saturday morning to tour areas of center city that many of our “Thursday night friends” (a nickname that I believe Stephanie has given the hungry and homeless people that we serve) call home. I didn’t realize until we reached our first stop, the Love Park, that our tour would take us back to parts of the City of Brotherly Love where I spent so much time when I worked in center city. The Love Park was a favorite spot for meeting friends at lunchtime. Seems it still is!

I recall seeing many homeless people at the Love Park during those lunch time visits 15 – 20 years ago, nearly every time I was there. What I didn’t remember noticing as much back then as I noticed on Saturday, were their beautiful smiles, the gratitude in their eyes and their kind and gentle spirits as we handed out servings of spaghetti, peanuts, sandwiches and power packs. Craig, the girls and I were all taken aback by the sheer number of hungry and homeless that we saw on Saturday, even though on any given Thursday night, we may have 50 to 100 people lining up for food! I don’t remember seeing so many, years ago.

Before Craig and I married, I commuted by train to work from Chester County. Every work day I would walk through the concourse level, either coming into or leaving center city. Back then, the concourse seemed so dreary and dirty. As we walked down from the street level on Saturday, I noticed immediately that it looked different. I was pleased to see that improvements had been made and perhaps better lighting installed. I asked Fred if he knew how often the floors were cleaned? He told us they were cleaned every day. Thanks be to God! Craig used the concourse rest room (something I most likely avoided doing back when I was commuting). When Craig came out from the rest room, he shared with us that he had spotted one of our Thursday night friends in the restroom enjoying a sponge bath. It made me smile and I was comforted a little as I thought about how much better our friend would feel after washing up! Going down another level to the train platform, I had a hard time reconciling the idea that the homeless had encampments right there by the train tracks that I used day in and day out to take me back to my warm, comfortable home in the country. As I listened to Fred describe some of the encampments, I gave thanks for the many blessings and for the gifts and talents that God has bestowed on each one of us. Imagine what could be accomplished if we would just take the time to tap into some of the creativity and resourcefulness that many of our homeless friends have been blessed with!

Stopping at the Dunkin Donuts and seeing the costly and drastic measures they, like many other businesses, have taken to prevent the hungry from taking food that is being thrown out, was very thought provoking. Logic and Love lead to the question of how this wasteful, terrible disconnect can simply be connected? Thy will be done. There must be a way. Visiting the spot that was Bruce’s at the corner of 18th and Vine Streets gave me a glimpse into how faithful and courageous our Thursday night friends must be.

We were sorry that we had to leave before the end of our tour, but even though we missed the most awesomest (and that’s being dittoed by an English major) part of the tour, Craig, the girls and I all thought it was the most awesomest tour of center city we had ever taken, too! I’m hoping that Fred will consider doing another one somewhere down the road, perhaps even when it isn’t perfect weather for being on the streets?!

Craig, the girls and I are all very grateful to be a part of this life-changing ministry and for the awesomest tour that Fred so thoughtfully conducted! Last but not least, we are immensely thankful for the many blessings, the spiritual nourishment and the JOY that our Thursday night friends so lovingly provide us when we are with them.

n closing, I’d like to include a quote from The Prologue of Ohrid, St. Nikolai Velimirovich as my friend and brother in Christ John just shared this with me today:

St. Nicholai of Zicha and OchridHe, who mocks the naked and hungry soldier, mocks his king. He, who mocks the poor, shames his Creator. If you know that the poor man’s Creator is your Creator, the one and the same, you would not mock him. If you know that the poor man stands in the same military rank in which you are also, you will cover him, feed him and you will bring him closer to yourself.

O, Omnipotent Lord, boundless is Your wisdom in the economy of Your creation. Illumine us by Your Holy Spirit that we may marvel at that economy and, with reverence and love, gaze upon all of Your creation, gazing upon them through You.

To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

What an Amazing Tour!

with the Phillie Phanatic
Us acting like tourists

I just got home from the most amazing tour of center city Philadelphia that I have ever participated in. 21 of us met at St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church’s parking lot. We walked over to the Love Park (JFK Plaza) where Elizabeth met us. There we gave away servings of spaghetti, peanuts, sandwiches and power packs to as many people who wanted them. Then we went underground for a block, in the subway concourse, to learn about some of the ways homeless people have survived through the years down there. Jolene, a counselor with Horizon House, shared how when she was new to the job, she had to spend many hours in the subway concourses just meeting people and observing them so she would recognize them if they should ever come through intake.

hiking through a secret garden
Hiking through a secret garden

I recalled the occasions, years ago, when we had large enough crews and large donations of blankets and bag lunches, that we would go down into the concourse on 8th Street and walk to 18th Street giving everything away as we went. Fred told us about the hospitality of some of the subway and train drivers; and of homeless encampments that used to be three levels down. We came up and walked back to St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church, where we had parked. On the way we learned about chain store corporations’ fears of sharing leftovers with homeless people. The Wawa went to the extreme measure of making sure any leftover sandwiches and donuts were in the bottom of a bag with used coffee grounds dumped on top, so they could not even be trash picked.

Fred's old living room
Fred's old living room

At the church, we refilled our bags and backpacks with more food. Michael shared bottles of cold water with any of the crew who wanted them. Jolene had to leave the tour to take a client to a diabetes class. We then proceeded to our usual serving spot across the street from the family court building. (That’s 1801 Vine St., Father Noah.) As people approached us, we gave away more sandwiches, peanuts, power packs and the rest of the spaghetti. We spent some time talking to some of the people in the park. We crossed the street and visited the spot where Bruce was killed last December. Fred and I pointed out the grates and grills that the city spent $80,000 to install on the Family Court, several years ago, to keep anyone from seeking shelter from the rain on their porch or windowsills. The Godshalls had to leave the tour at this point. It is really too bad, because they missed the awesomest parts. (I know awesomest is not a word, but those who know me know I don’t use awesome unless it is called for and try not to break grammar rules, unless the occasion truly demands it.)

I have to be careful here, because I don’t want to spoil anyone’s situation. We can’t have tourists checking it out willy nilly. We gave the current occupant of the newer encampment a donation. We visited two of Fred’s old encampments. They are located under bridges. We had to walk quite a distance and go the equivalent of two flights down and climb over discarded, rotting railroad ties, through lush, wild trees, shrubs and vines to get to Fred’s first shelter. He had built it out of discarded plywood and 2×4’s, with some fabric and a broken screen for the door. It is four feet wide, eight feet long and four feet high; just enough to crawl into to get some additional protection from the elements. While he was living in this box, he cleared off a platform that used to service trains, about a block away, along the same abandoned right of way. There he pitched two tents: one is the bedroom, complete with air mattress; the other is the bathroom complete with a walker toilet, hand washing basin and a large storage bin that serves for bathing. In between these tents is the living room, furnished with a scavenged couch, an Ikea chair and footstool, two circular, rattan chairs and end tables. There were several five gallon bottles of water. There is a round patio table and umbrella for the dining area. I pointed out to Fred that this place was larger than his apartment now, and had better cross breezes to boot. This gave him pause. On the way out, all but Ben and I climbed up a pile of rip-rap inside of an old, broad archway to visit what Fred calls the “bat cave”. There is a mattress and a chair in there.

As we walked back to our cars, we stopped in front of the Free Library for a group photo with the Phillie Phanatic. When we got back to the church parking lot, we stood in a circle. Each one shared something that impressed them about the tour. More posts will follow to share some of these.