The first volume of Other People’s Children arrived at our house today. If you live locally, you want to save on shipping, and you want an autographed copy, drop on by before next Wednesday to pick up one of these full color beauties. On June 8, I go in for open heart surgery, so there won’t be anyone to mind the store or sign autographs for a while. Until then, I’ll keep the teapot warm and would be delighted for the company!
It took me over a week just to start this article, meanwhile our GoFundMe sits there with $20 in it, and we are another week closer to losing a lifetime’s worth of equity, and any shot at having a decent base of operations for The King’s Jubilee. We are serving a hot, nutritious meal to the homeless each Friday night on Logan Circle, now, and have nothing left in the checking account after putting gas in the tank. The people are so glad to see us! One lady kept repeating how she had missed my soups. I am a bad fundraiser, though. I don’t have many friends who are not homeless or poor.
As I am writing this, Tony is out back, working hard to finish the barn, so it can be our office, community kitchen, art studio, project area and drop off point for food, clothing, household goods, and furniture. Please give and share the GoFundMe however you can, online, or by printing the poster and taping it up on the fridge in your break room at work.
It is so difficult for me to speak of Fred Benjamin in the past tense. I was speaking to him last Wednesday. His presence was always a little more than one could contain. One never knew quite what to expect, except that he would be high energy, assertive, and want to be involved.
Fred lived on the streets for over twenty years. On three occasions in 2010, he helped lead teams of volunteers on tours of the center city homeless experience for The King’s Jubilee, which included the refrigerator box he had lived in for many months. He had a desire to give back and to volunteer. He made friends with the Haverford College women, some of whom wrote to him from Sweden and Germany when they were on semesters abroad. He gave Esther McGraw her street name of “Trooper”, because of all nine of the McGraw children, she came down the most faithfully in all kinds of weather and truly enjoyed serving. She started as a tiny girl. Now she is in her twenties and is helping coordinate Thursday night meals for Twelve Baskets Full.
Fred had a temper and could be ornery, but he was loyal and with his charm and smile, one could not stay angry at him for very long if he got out of hand. He kept fights away from volunteers more than once or twice.
It was about 6 years ago that Fred moved off the street into an apartment. We helped him find furniture and a VCR and computers, etc. He still came out to help serve, and we’d give him rides home, many times. About a year ago, we didn’t see him so much. He said it was because he was taking care of his mom. I’ve met his mom. She seems fine. I have since learned that’s when his health took a turn for the worse. He says it was diabetes, but it was some kind of aggressive kind of wasting disease. He lost 120 pounds in 2 months according to his mom, after he had come down to 240. So in the end his blood sugar spiked and his blood pressure spiked and there was not enough of Fred left to fight it. He passed away at 7:08 am, July 18, 2015, in his apartment, with his cat, L.B. His mom had the police and fire break down the door to find him shortly thereafter.
Fred Benjamin had no insurance and his family has little money, so they are relying on the mercy of Fred’s friends to defray the cost of Fred’s funeral. They chose a modest service. The whole cost is $5500. Between Twelve Baskets Full and TKJ, we have at least $500 collected so far. This harks back to one of the 1st century ministries of Christians and is a powerful statement of love and mercy to the community. You may use the Paypal button to join in.
The viewing and funeral for Fred will be Wednesday, July 29, at:
Jason Lloyd Funeral Home
2125 N. 22nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19121
Viewing & Visitation: 9 am – 11 am
Funeral: 11 am
Sorry, I am removing any and all endorsements from the 12 Baskets group. They have told me they don’t want to be associated with me in any way shape or form, even though none of them would have gotten involved on the street had it not been for me introducing them to it and being there constantly. They say I have been cantankerous and argumentative. Of course, the person saying that to me has been extremely cantankerous and argumentative to me, and has not been on the street that much.
I have never said I am not cantankerous. I can be. I don’t know of a single person who has been at this as long as I have who isn’t at times. It is damned hard to live at below poverty standards and keep going while pastors continue to abuse you and bishops lie and abuse you and feel threatened in their lifestyle, because the pittance you want for the homeless may cut into the grandeur of their banquets and not be considered an irritant!
I am finally quitting, because I am bankrupt after 26-1/2 years serving on the street. Some of these people who are saying these nasty things, just two weeks ago were flattering me and saying how they couldn’t do this. Then, as soon as I was quitting, it was all about how they could do it easy, because of how rich they are. They despise me because of my poverty! This is exactly what makes them unsuited for this ministry!
We are about to lose our house. No one gives a shit!
I have extreme depression and CPTSD because of CLERGY ABUSE! No one gives a shit! (Perhaps this is why I am cantankerous?)
I gave up a lucrative career to serve the poor. My children and grandchildren are wonderful, happy children, largely as a result. Thousands of inmates and poor received some hope and joy and unconditional friendship. Hundreds received HS GEDs. Hundreds learned English as a second language. A couple received their Bachelor’s degree. One graduated as a nurse Cum Laude. One became a prison chaplain. Others got their families together, etc. That’s among the homeless and inmates. Then, among our volunteers; Several found their callings to be doctors and medical missionaries and counselors and priests and nurses or to serve the homeless in other cities, while they were serving with us, because I stuck by the stuff. No one gives a shit!
I went through the court case with no support from any of these people or the church, in tears for months, in order to continue serving in the parks. No one gives a shit!
I was trying to be magnanimous. I gave my cooking gear and supplies to 12 Baskets, even while I was hearing negative comments, then it went beyond the pale.
I am a throwaway. I am a difficult person. Never mind the sociopathic priests or the bishops who refuse to deal with them and just hang up on me. Never mind the pastor who threatened to kill me. He got to keep his salary. He was the right nationality. I can just go to hell. I can’t go to church without risking a stroke. But I am “playing the victim” to say this!
Yesterday, I brought a week’s rent down to a couple, only to find out today that Social Security lost our documentation for expediting back disability pay. This means, we are likely to lose our house. This is why I quit. I was just too tired of begging to people who didn’t give a damn. All they care about is their warped view of Matthew 25. Here is a news flash. If you are serving the homeless to get into heaven, it won’t work! You can’t buy your way into heaven. Everyone is surprised at the Judgment. That is the point of that story. Judge no one. Muslims or atheists may enter before you. No one can con God. If you are doing this to earn points with God, the people can smell that on you, and it stinks to high heaven of self-righteousness. You may as well stay home.
You need to serve the poor because it is the right thing to do and because you enjoy doing it. The McGraws understand this and are faithful, loving people, with more patience than me. I am really glad that 12 Baskets is taking up this work and pray that God will bless and strengthen their hands and hearts and provide them with every good thing to continue to provide for my friends for many years! I guess I am blessing them after all. God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise. If God could use me, He can certainly use them.
First, I want to say thank you to all of those who have supported us through the years and have participated in this ministry. May God bless you! I am sorry if any of you feel I have not said that enough. It is at the end of most, but not all blog entries on this blog.
Second, we will be serving meals in the park this Thursday and next Thursday, May 7, will be our last, due to lack of support from the church.
Third, I was just told to “stop playing the victim!” I am sorry, but I am not playing. I really do suffer from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from being bullied by clergy, Orthodox, Protestant & Anabaptist. Most recently this has caused churches to be ashamed of me and this ministry, even though I have been told by two Orthodox Bishops and several Orthodox Priests to not shut up and to not give in to bullies, even if they are priests or bishops! Clergy are not infallible. We are in foreclosure again because of sickness and stresses of this ministry and the slowness of the Social Security Administration. I honestly identify with and empathize with the people on the street. I have been regularly attacked for this in the press, by city administrations, by pastors, by fellow church goers.
Jesus identified with the poor and outcast. So I still think I’m in good company. I will continue to serve as I can. I don’t know what that will look like. But I need to find more likeminded people who aren’t ashamed to be seen with me. In other words, I need someone to minister to me like I have ministered among the homeless for over 26 years.
I am once again totally underwhelmed by the response to the last two articles about Rashawn & Diamond. The first one was shared 40 times and 6 donors came forward with not enough to cover it. So far, we have received $100 toward next month, with 12 days to go. The ministry as a whole is operating at a deficit. We won’t be able to get all the ingredients and paper products, and iced tea this week and pay the cell phone bill. I had hoped for new leadership by now, and a new, more upbeat, public face, to do fundraising. That doesn’t seem to be happening. People have suggested ways to raise money, and I say, go ahead. Nothing happens. There are a few people who are doing a great job to help provide great meals on Thursday nights with fruits and peanuts and sandwiches, hard boiled eggs and coming out. That’s great! There is so much more. To keep it going takes money. To raise money, we need people who understand and can clearly articulate the vision of The King’s Jubilee. That hasn’t happened. I have failed as a leader.
As a family, we are racing with the calendar to not end up homeless ourselves. I applied for disability in July 2013. It is just coming through now. There is a 5 month, no income waiting period and a 25% lawyer’s cut. Plus the SS Admin. takes their sweet time. Then they want to know exactly what you were living on while you were waiting, so they can deduct that from the amount that they are going to pay. Is it any wonder there are so many old and disabled folks who end up homeless? We are not out of the woods yet. The mortgage company has started foreclosure proceedings. It just comes to a point where I have to face facts. The prima facie evidence is that what I have done with my life is not valued by society or the church. I am turning 60 in two months. I have had 6 strokes and about 40 TIAs. I have Complex PTSD from clergy bullying. (To add major insult to injury, I have just learned that there are Orthodox churches who refuse to associate or support this ministry because I suffer from CPTSD from clergy abuse. OK. Further abuse the victim and the ones he is ministering to! That makes complete sense, if you don’t believe a word that Jesus ever said!) This all adds up to constant pain and permanent disability. Perhaps it’s time I grow up and face reality and hang it up. I don’t even know if we can afford to do that.
Make sure to follow us on Facebook or keep checking back on this blog. Some little and some really big changes are going to be happening over the next year at The King’s Jubilee. My Russian teacher in high school once told me that I had a mind like an iron vice, after the light went on after he explained prepositions to me for the 6th time and I finally had them mastered. Three years later I figured out he was giving me what was known as a “left-handed compliment.” In other words, I can be slow on the uptake sometimes, but once I’ve got it, I’ve got it.
As I implied in a previous post, it is time for me to stop getting in my own way and let some fresh leadership step up to take TKJ forward. I’ll be happy to keep cooking soup and serving hot sauce and riding shot gun to the city and talking to the people on the street for as long as I am able. I just am not going to be responsible for coordinating, fundraising, supervising (like I supervise!), etc.
There will be a new face or faces of The King’s Jubilee. This has been too long in coming. I am sorry. It has been due to my own lack of faith and my trust issues due to CPTSD from clergy abuse that has made this so hard for me to do. In the next couple of days, the new president of TKJ will introduce herself on this blog. We hope to accomplish more to eliminate homelessness in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. We will continue to advocate for the visible and invisible poor and oppressed in our society. We will continue to do direct acts of charity to see the face of ourselves, or perhaps even of Jesus Himself, in those among whom we serve.
Our mission has just begun. Please pray for us as we make our way forward. To better times and expanded services! Thank you for your support. We can only do this as you give. We receive no government or corporate support. May God bless you as you give and as you pray and remember the poor.
Just because I said on Tuesday that we did not have the resources for Thursday night’s meal, does not mean we are not serving Thursday night’s meal. It just means somethings got to happen to make this possible. Not only are we serving a meal; we are serving a feast! I am making a turkey soup with beef broth. Miss April is making a vegan side and buttery cabbage and pasta side. Holy Annunciation are bringing peanuts, eggs, oranges, bananas, and pastries. Pennridge South Middle School are bringing blankets and “Love Packs” with toiletry items and snacks & water for later. Bob is bringing bags of socks. Esther is bringing spaghetti. I’m bringing iced tea, hot sauce, salt and pepper!
I forgot to mention sandwiches! I don’t remember who all are bringing sandwiches, but we will have plenty, so people will have enough for a late night snack or breakfast or lunch tomorrow.
Thank you, people, for coming through again!
I guess the headline should really read “on Chase Visa” since we put most of the socks and underwear on our personal credit card since we didn’t have enough cash to buy them in time for the party. Money had been given but it takes several days for it to process from Paypal into TKJ’s checking account. Tuesday, Bethann & I went to our least favorite discount store and cleaned them out of men’s tube socks and severely depleted their shelf supply of tighty whities. Sorry guys, boxers are just too expensive for us and to offer the choice too complicated. Then we got a pack each of 4 different sizes of women’s panties and four packs of socks. This came to $329.
The people of St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church gathered several dozen sets of underwear and socks and some T-shirts. Early Wednesday, 6:30am, I drove down to Tindley Temple in south Philly, picking up Anthony McNeal on the way. Anthony began to help cook. I began to sort and bag the socks and underwear. A few of the students from the neighborhood school, who were there to serve the meal, sorted and bagged the women’s socks and underwear. Liz, a volunteer from the church, helped me bag more of the men’s. We got done and set up just before the people started arriving for their lunch of fried chicken and all the trimmings. Attendance was kind of low there this year, so we had lots of underwear and socks to give out on Thursday night. I left there about 2pm. It was hard work, but great fun with the old ladies who keep that place running. The men and women really appreciated the socks and underwear. There were also just the right number of pairs of gloves that people requested. They were so happy!
I headed further south to Bob Lutzick’s house near 3rd & Snyder to pick up coats and blankets and a microwave which he had gathered for TKJ, He gave me a tour of his icons and we had a cup of tea. Bob is such an encouraging, generous, and humble guy. And he has a whack sense of humor, too. One would almost think he was from MN. From there, I stopped by Tindley again, to see if I could give Anthony a ride home. He was not done cleaning up. They had to be especially thorough, since the kitchen was going to be closed for a couple of weeks. He didn’t get out of there until after 5. So I continued on home.
Traffic on Broad St. and on 309 North was ridiculous. It took forever. Bethann got worried, since it got dark, and I was out driving. I don’t see so well with headlights in my eyes. They make my eyes hurt and unable to see the darker areas close to the car. I compensate for this by wearing my funky sunglasses at night. I arrived home after 5pm, exhausted, but happy.
Thank you for your support and your prayers.
Christmas would hardly be Christmas without new socks and underwear! It’s a guy thing. Dads expect it. What else is there to buy them? After all, most men just buy whatever they need or want whenever they want to. Well, middle class and up men, that is. For the last few years, we have had the privilege of bringing the joy of new socks and underwear to about 200 homeless men and women at Tindley Temple United Methodist Church’s Soup Kitchen’s Christmas Party. This year it is on Wednesday, December 17, at noon. That is only 9 days away. We need to raise about $500 to make this happen. We prefer money, so we can go shopping and get all the proper range of sizes to meet the need, in an orderly fashion. Then we will help serve the meal and give away these gifts along with some toiletries from the ladies auxiliary from the church.
The following week is Christmas. Since Christmas and New Year’s Day both fall on Thursday and Friday is under-served, we are going to serve on Friday both of those weeks. On Friday, Dec. 26, we hope to bring lots of home made cookies along to give away, as a special treat, and a touch of home. So, if you bake, please make an extra plate or two for us and get it to our house by 6:30 pm,that Friday, or call me to see who else may be able to bring them down.
This is a great opportunity for younger children to come down, since it will not be a school night. We will be serving hot chocolate those nights to add to the festive atmosphere. Come join the fun! Make it a family outing!