Oscar

I have recently started to paint portraits. I never knew I could do this. I don’t think I could before. Every attempt at art, other than on a computer, or with a blade of some sort to steady my hand and smooth the curves always seemed to look like my kindergarten work. That never even made it onto the refrigerator; it was so bad. This is therapy for me. It is good for my heart. It lowers my blood pressure. I started with a self-portrait. Now I have completed three portraits of two brothers and one sister from the parkway in Philadelphia: Rosalie, Alex and Oscar. Only Alex is still among the living, and he was the only one I had a photograph of. My paintings are cartoonish, not realistic. I am trying to capture something of the emotional and spiritual impact these people made on me, a touch of their beauty, if you will.

Oscar

I shared Oscar’s story more than 20 years ago in a newsletter shortly after he had died. Oscar was in his early 50s. It was 1992. I was 37. We were serving on the sidewalk on the City Hall side of JFK Plaza at that time, more commonly called the Love Park because of the world famous LOVE art in front of the fountain there. We would see Oscar on occasion. Every time he came, he made it a point to seek me out after to say how thankful he was for what we did. He would say how special that I am for doing this. I always deflected by saying something like, “I’m just doing what Jesus compels me to do. I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t do it. It is Jesus who loves you.” He would reply, “I don’t believe in any of that god stuff. I just know that you are really special and I am truly grateful. Thank you!”

At times, we would talk about history or philosophy or the arts. He was well educated. He had had a good paying job at one point. I don’t know if I ever learned how he ended up on the street. He had used cocaine and had suffered a couple of heart attacks as a result. He is among the most civilized people I have ever known, with a twinkle in the eye and a Bohemian side.

Hurricane Andrew hit Homestead, FL, in August of 1992. Church groups were sending clothing and supplies down to the more than 100,000 families whose homes had been destroyed. Word got out that people were having a hard time surviving because it was it slow process to get any cash to buy necessities. So people started tucking cash into the pockets of clothing to short circuit that process, and get money into people’s hands quickly. Several bags of men’s clothing did not fit onto a truck bound for Homestead, so they got re-directed to The King’s Jubilee. They told me about the potential money in the pockets. Between working full-time, leading a Bible study at Graterford prison that afternoon while Bethann made the soup, coordinating with the Pottstown and SC serving sites, somehow searching pockets got missed.

When we gave away the clothing that night, it was a free for all, like always. There was one garment no one seemed to want. It was a corduroy sportcoat with suede elbow patches. Oscar grabbed it and put it on. It fit. It was warm. He said, “I’m not proud. It’s warm. It’s clean.” The others laughed and called him professor. Who knows? Perhaps, that’s what he had been. He disappeared for a couple weeks. When he came back, he told me what happened. Later that night, he checked the pockets of the sportcoat and found a $50 bill. He told me that he wished he could say he did something productive or constructive with it. Alas, he said, he had a good meal at a fancy restaurant and went on a week long bender. He said, “I’m sorry. But it’s been a long time since I had such a good time and could forget about all of this. Thank you. Can you forgive me?”

I told him there was nothing to forgive. He found the money. It was his to do with what he wanted. If he got some relief, well, who am I to judge? (I am weeping as I type this.) His eyes welled up and he thanked me again with a hug. The next time he thanked me for serving all the guys on the street. He said, “I thank God for you, Cranford.” My eyes welled up with tears.

I don’t know if he had found faith, or if he was just being gracious and kind to please me. It was the last time I saw Oscar. He died of a heart attack at 53. I attempted to paint this from memory. It is a poor likeness. The beret and the neck scarf are there. The beard, long, full hair, and brown eyes are there. I tried to convey both his thoughtfulness and the mischief, with the intent stare, the tilt of the head, and the slight smile.



The Lady on the Basilica Steps

Ss. Peter and Paul Basilica

This article should just about write itself. It has all the elements to tug at the heartstrings like classic poverty porn. However, this is what has made it so hard for me to write. After more than 30 years writing newsletters and blog posts about the shocking way the poor, the disabled and the aged are treated in our country, it has gotten old. It has only gotten worse, with the government cuts to every kind of assistance and the general hardness of hearts in our society. It is just downright depressing.

Last Friday evening, Tony found a woman, about my age, lying on the Cathedral steps and invited her over to see what we had to offer. She was very timid. We had to invite her to accept each thing, some soup, pumpkin rice, hard boiled eggs, pie, etc. It was apparent that she could hardly speak due to stroke damage. She needed a better hat and a blanket. Susan found these for her. She had tears of gratitude as the hat was placed on her head and the thick blanket was wrapped round her shoulders. She shuffled as she walked and didn’t have full function of her hands. What a picture! She sleeps outside the Basilica. St. Basil founded a city for the poor with free hospitals and shelters funded by taxation on the rich! She sleeps in the cold on the steps of the Basilica! In one of the richest countries in the world, where we pay three times more per capita for healthcare than all but one other country, yet, somehow, we can’t afford to take care of the lady sleeping on the Basilica steps.

Perhaps she can qualify for Medicaid or public housing, or SSI. I don’t know. I do know that the process to get these benefits is anything but easy. I am a fully vocal person, with a place to store my records and a phone. It took months of back and forth and filling out forms to get Medicaid. It took years to get SSI after having six strokes, kidney failure, cPTSD, a summer of disabling migraines, my business failing, and almost losing my house to foreclosure. We are almost certainly going to lose it to foreclosure because they still have not paid the back benefit that they owe. So how does one who lacks speech, lacks confidence and sleeps on the steps of the Basilica with no phone and no safe place to keep her records follow through with that process? IMPOSSIBLE! The govt. made it this hard for two reasons: to keep out the riff-raff; and to necessitate lawyers to navigate the system. The problem is, the lawyers are the riff-raff, and it keeps out the most deserving of help.

Then there are so many who say, this is not the government’s job. It is the church’s job to help the poor. Did I mention that she is sleeping on the steps of the Basilica? These are the same steps that Tony McNeal, Director of The King’s Jubilee, used to sleep on at times, when he was homeless. Back then, there was a sexton (that’s the church word for janitor) who used to secretly let some homeless sleep on the pews inside. Tony would then assist in keeping the peace, and cleaning up afterward. This all had to be done on the down low. If the priest were to find out, the sexton would have lost his job and possibly been charged with criminal trespass. Then there’s the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in North Phila. who put razor wire around their vegetable and flower garden rather than trust God for how its fruits were distributed. That’s so welcoming to their church, now that it looks like a prison. So much for relying on the church.

In fact, as government assistance has gone down in recent years, so has church’ and non-profit orgs’ assistance to the needy gone down. It seems people’s politics spills over into their religion in America, not so much the other way around.

We are not some big agency. We are basically a couple of families and a rag tag band of poor people with hearts breaking for the poor and oppressed. We love to give other people’s stuff away for them, and cook wonderful, nutritious meals for people who need them, with dignity and respect. Everything you give will help us continue to do this. Please give until it stops hurting. You’ll feel better for it!



Bitter Cold on the Streets of Philadelphia

On the last couple of Thursdays, volunteers have called me to see if we were still going out to serve, since it was Code Blue in the city. I explained on each occasion that, yes, we would be going. Many of the people we serve are not fully homeless. They live in rented rooms, but have no place to prepare food. Some of them have to choose between rent and food for the month or week. Many we serve are the hardcore of the homeless who refuse to go in to shelters due to fear for their own safety or fear of being picked up on an old bench warrant, or just not wanting to admit that they are that homeless and dependent. Then there is the cold, hard truth, that even with the expanded capacity and outreach of Code Blue, there isn’t enough space for everyone to come in from out of the cold.

It’s a sad state of affairs. There are lots of heated, vacant spaces, if we only had more compassion. Train conductors used to be allowed to look the other way and let homeless ride and sleep on the subway all night, maybe without collecting a fare. Now there are cameras and they’d lose their jobs. The trains are running. It costs nothing more. It hurts nobody. It saves lives. We all descended from poor and homeless people at some point. Now we are afraid of them, so we don’t let them ride.

Those of us serving were well bundled up with layers. We served about 50 people. I thank God we had blankets and new socks and some clothing to give away. We served hot, thick hamburger and cabbage soup, spicy tagine, spaghetti, and hot chocolate, along with our usual complement of fruits, eggs, sandwiches, etc. We gave just about everything away! Somebody even left a huge bag of foil wrapped chocolate coins on our front step along with a cash donation. It was a joy to share those as a special treat on such a cold night. The cash helped someone stay out of the cold in a room. We were freezing and so ready to get back into cars with heat, by the time we left, 45 minutes after we arrived. My hands are still cold and stiff more than 12 hours later, even though I was wearing gloves the whole time (since they got frostbit in 1969). But we got to go home to heat and basically unlimited hot water, coffee, microwaves, tea, etc. We left these people, our brothers and sisters, on the street to try to survive more sub-zero, windy, Code Blue days and nights in a city whose main concern is that they not be seen in public.

May God forgive us.



Tonight’s Meal

Love Pack
Love Pack

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!

Thank God!



Turkey Royale

On Thursday, December 18, I was moving pretty slowly. I was so tired from Wednesday. I don’t know if it’s the medications, the pain, the CPTSD, or the kidney disease that makes me so tired and sleepy, but most days it is hard to stay awake for more than two hours in a row. So I planned a fairly simple soup this week; simple to make, that is. It had very interesting and complex flavor notes. We served all of it, yet added very little hot sauce or salt and pepper to it for our customers. Here’s the recipe.

Start by baking an 18 pound turkey in a covered roasting pan with about 3 inches of water in it with about a tablespoon of ground ginger in it. I use an oven with a probe, so I set that to 170º and let it go past it to about 174°.

Once that is halfway done, get your food processor, canner, 22 quart stock pot, old hand towel, and the rest of your ingredients out:

  • 2 quarts homemade Turkey Broth
  • 1-3/4 cups Royal Purple Rice aka Black Rice aka Havasta
  • Olive Oil
  • ~ 4 sticks of Celery
  • 1 pound Carrots
  • 2 Red Onions
  • 2 Yellow Onions
  • 2 Fennel
  • 3 inches Fresh Turmeric
  • 2 inches Fresh Ginger
  • 1 pound Radishes w/o greens
  • 1 oz. fresh Parsley
  • Mixed Peppercorn grinder
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Coriander
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Star Anise

When the turkey is about halfway done, place the homemade turkey broth in the 22 quart stock pot and begin to heat it up. Mine was frozen. That’s why I said, place. Start the rice. I use a simple rice cooker. Pour in some olive oil. Add the black rice, then a Tablespoon of turmeric, then the appropriate amount of water. It takes a little more water than brown rice.

Throw the Fresh Ginger and Fresh Turmeric into the blender and pulverize it, until they are as fine as you can get them. Cut the carrots into 3 inch lengths and throw them into the blender or Ninja chopper bowl with the ginger and Turmeric. Hit Pulse a few times, until the carrots are all bite size or smaller, but not pureed. Dump into stock pot. It may take a few loads to get all the carrots. Then do the same for the onions, including the parsley with one of the loads. Similarly chop the celery, the fennel, including the feathery tops, and, finally the radishes. Rinse out the blender or Ninja bowl with hot water and ad that to the stock pot. You should be stirring this every time you add something.

When the turkey is done, drain all the liquid into the stock pot and leave the turkey on the counter to cool until you are able to tear it up to put it into the soup. Add the Coriander and the Star Anise and ~ 1 Tablespoon fine ground, mixed Peppercorns. Stir. Get your canner and place your old hand towel, folded in half, in the bottom of it. Put about 2-1/2″ hot tap water into it. Place the stock pot into the canner and move it onto the burner. Now you have a giant double boiler, so as long as there is water in the canner, it is impossible for you to burn the soup. Take a teapot or measuring cup and fill the canner to about 2″ shy of the top for maximum heat transference without it bubbling over. Keep the cover on the stock pot as much as possible.

As soon as the turkey is barely cool enough to handle, rip it up and add it to the soup, stirring it in frequently. On the first dip under, the meat will appear green. After a few more dips, it will appear brown or purple. It is not a pretty soup. It is ideal for serving in the dark. So right around the winter solstice, outdoors, is ideal. It is very tasty! And nutritious. The wild purple royal rice has a lightly sweet flavor. It actually has been known to lower blood sugar in some people. It is so named because it was reserved for royalty in China. The earthy turmeric actually draws out this flavor and is a powerful anti-inflammatory, which improves liver function, can replace Lipitor, fight arthritis, diabetes, and 40 other ailments. Ginger is also a powerful anti-inflammatory with some of the same effects and an added benefit of preventing migraines. Anise and fennel are good for the digestion and the teeth and gums. Coriander is especially good for the kidneys and the bladder. The rice, also known as black rice, has more flavonoids  ounce for ounce than blueberries, so it is great for fighting or preventing cancer. These are all great things for people who have limited access to regular healthcare.

billTedWe realize that one meal in the week is not a solution. We publish these recipes in the hope that we can raise the bar for others serving and, perhaps set the pace. I would hope as we have learned more about diet and health, we have improved our own diets and the way we cook for ourselves. This just comes under the Golden Rule: to do for others as we would have done unto us. Or as Bill and Ted said it: “Be excellent to each other! And party on, Dudes!”

And it was a party. Bethann & I are on the verge of being foreclosed on again. When we went down there, we had nothing in our or TKJ’s bank accounts. The only money in my wallet was committed to help someone else with their rent. We gave away hundreds of sandwiches, 21 quarts of soup that was really stew, a cabbage potato side, spaghetti, loads of hard boiled eggs, oranges, bananas, Girl Scout made cupcakes, ice tea, peanuts in the shell, goodies, underwear, coats, socks, and blankets. We received word from a grinning Grigory that his son was back from the Ukraine alive! He doesn’t have to go back until March. We were rejoicing with tears of joy together. (There are worse places to be than homeless on the streets of Philadelphia.) Rashawn reminded me to buy him a cake for his birthday next week. I told him, No, I will build him one!

I am so thankful for the families that faithfully make sandwiches every week, or once a month. I am so thankful for the people who donate regularly to make what we do possible each week. I am so thankful for all the people who bailed us out this year when we were going to lose our house. I am so grateful for the people who have not given up on me, or at least, have decided not to punish the homeless on my account.

The last two Thursdays, I had people lined up who were coming, who I was pretty much counting on to drive. They clean forgot. I understand that. I have done that with fairly important appointments. These days, I miss an average of one doctor’s appt. per month. I’ve had six strokes and I never used calendars before. Both weeks, we had a driver show up, so, no problem. On Thursday morning, I felt like I didn’t want to go. I was just that tired. I had to finish making a Christmas gift to bring along to deliver, as well. I got kind of a late start to the day. Then the pace picked up, and it was so worth it! For me, it is unthinkable to miss a week going down if I can at all make it. It’s what I was made for! I understand if this is not your cup of tea, yet you are willing to fill in here and there. Not everyone can be crazy like me. I am too stupid to be afraid in just about any situation. I am comfortable around all kinds of people, in all kinds of mental states. But I don’t have the patience to faithfully make loaves of sandwiches for people I don’t even see week after week after week. That is a real gift of hospitality! I don’t have a means of earning the money to support this ministry or the work I do for it. But I enjoy giving your alms away for you.

I’ve rambled long enough. Thank you for supporting the ministry to those of you who do. We need much more if we are to continue to serve with the quality we have grown accustomed to.

Please consider a year end gift and a monthly automatic donation.

Peace.



Tindley Temple UMC Soup Kitchen Christmas Party on a Wing and a Prayer

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.

Anthony McNeal
Anthony McNeal

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!

Bob Lutzick
Bob Lutzick

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.



Another Fun Night in the Park

Deacon Herman and I arrived at the park behind the Galusha Pennypacker statue at about 8pm last night. Fr. Chris, Billy and his wife, Anthony, Stephen, and another volunteer were already there and set up. (Sorry Mrs. Billy and “another volunteer.” My swiss cheese brain does even worse with names than it used to.) The line of mostly men already stretched from the park benches to beyond Galusha’s boots on the other side of the park. We added the soup, the handwashing station, the beans/rice/corn, the sandwiches, 10 gallons of iced, tea, more hard-boiled eggs, and baked goods, to the oranges, hard-boiled eggs, peanuts, and baked goods to what Fr. Chris had brought.

Fr. Chris made sure we were all in our places and said a blessing. We began to serve. Philip and Esther McGraw arrived with more peanuts, more sandwiches and pasta with tomato sauce & beef (I think). Stephen had taken hard-boiled eggs to the far end of the line and handed them out all down the line. This helps keep order. The guys have something satisfying to eat right away, or they can choose to keep it for later. When Philip arrived he did the same thing with the bags of peanuts in the shell. Then he manned the hot sauce bottle. I was serving the beans, rice and corn, vegetarian alternative. It was a huge crowd. We were serving for about 45 minutes. There were probably close to 200 people there, but everyone got something. Many got seconds and thirds. That is a lot of people for this early in the month. People were very grateful. So many people expressed heartfelt thanks. So I need to pass that on to all of you. I can only do what I do because of what people give me. You are the almsgivers. I am just an irritant, a nudge, and a facilitator to get those alms to where they are needed.

So thank you. God bless you.

I delivered Alex’s lifeline phone and mail to him. He uses our address. I put out the one little bag of clothing I had to give away. We had a few other conversations. Daniel asks for payer for continued healing for his wife, Sadie. He is going for a scan for a large growth on his face to see if it is cancerous. Please keep Daniel and Sadie and their children in your prayers. Sweeter, kinder people are hard to find; and they have had a tough run.

Stephen and Anthony cleaned up and loaded the TKJ-mobile. Fr. Christos and I had a good conversation. Dn. Herman got to catch up on life and times with the McGraws. Then we left. We dropped off Anthony at his son’s place, being careful to keep the windows and doors shut. We have had strange encounters on that corner. Then we proceeded home listening to great music and talking about Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson and Blind Willie McTell. Of course, we stopped on the way at the Sunoco to say hello to Shamyra.

But we could not have had all that fun, were it not for a whole lot of preparation. Last year Anthony and I took a three hour course over at the city morgue building. That’s where the health dept. offices are. That is how we got the permit to prepare hot food to serve. I also filed for a permit, which by agreement they have to grant, to serve on Thursday nights in the park at 18th & Vine Sts. Our daughter, Lydia, made and froze four quarts of chicken broth last week. She doesn’t waste anything. We raised her well. On her way over to drop those off along with some other garden produce for us, she stopped by a roadside stand to see if she could pick up some bargains. Our little granddaughter told the lady that it was for the homeless, so Lydia told her the whole story about the increasing need, etc. The farmer was delighted to help. She had some corn and some cabbage that she was not comfortable selling at the stand and was going to feed it to her sheep, but would be much happier if people would eat it. The sheep did not need it. She gave us three huge heads of cabbage and about 4 dozen ears of corn. There was nothing al all wrong with it! I made sure of that. I tasted the corn as we were processing it. It was the best that I have tasted this season. That was a real encouragement to Lydia and to us.

So yesterday morning, I went to Produce Junction to get onions, celery and radishes. I went to Giant to get 300 paper, hot/cold cups and 9 pounds of ground beef. Two of the 3 lb. packs were reduced from $8 to $4.37. I was pleased. By the time I got home, Bethann and Kevin had husked the corn. (Kevin helps with the soup every other week.) I heated up the water to blanch the corn in the soup kettle, while Kevin chopped celery and I sliced radishes. I blanched the corn. Kevin grated ginger root. I soaked, then cooked the pinto beans in the roaster pan, with some of the ginger root in the water. We blanched the sweet corn, then rinsed it to cool it down to cut it off the cobs. We put it in bowls to use later in the beans and rice. I ended up using some in the soup, as well. There was just so much! I made a rice cooker full of wholegrain rice with a handful of turmeric and a dash of olive oil. Turmeric is a natural mood elevator. Kevin kept chopping. He chopped more than enough cabbage for the soup. I had to scoop some off the top of the bowl to put in the fridge. It’s going to the shelter down the block today. He chopped three huge onions. He left just after noon, I think.

The beans finished cooking. The rice finished cooking. I combined the rice and the beans and most of the corn. The large roaster pan was full. I added some water, Lawry’s Season Salt, curry, garlic, coriander, and turmeric. Then I put that in the oven at 180 degree to slow cook.

I poured the chicken broth into the soup kettle and began to heat it up. Then I added the rest of the ginger, the radishes, the onions, celery, and cabbage. I added water, fresh ground pepper, turmeric, granulated garlic, allspice, and curry. Then I fried up the ground beef 1-1/2 pounds at a time in the cast iron skillet, cooking it thoroughly and adding it to the soup. Then I added the remaining corn. The 22 quart stock pot was full to the brim. It was a good thing. It was exactly the right amount.

Then there were the people who made sandwiches. Someone snook down my driveway and put eight loaves of sandwiches in the back of my car while I wasn’t looking. Someone in the McGraw household made the pasta dish. I don’t know who made that gross of hard-boiled eggs that Fr. Chris brought out. Four shoeboxes full of hard-boiled eggs were delivered to our house on Thursday from another family.

So our one hour of fun on the parkway on Thursday night is a little bit like those fireworks on the 4th of July. It gives the impression of a spectacular, spontaneous display, but it can only happen with a lot of forethought, work and coordination. I’m just glad that God has my back in this.

One more thought.

We could have so much more fun and do so much more good, if we had regular pledged support and didn’t have to worry about closing down every week. Please give. (Nudge.)

The Clown Car

TKJ-mobile
TKJ-mobile

My 2004 Scion xB has been referred to as a clown car on more than one occasion, and for more than one reason. It is rather colorfully decorated with decals.  For those of you who are not tech savvy, those checkered patterned splats on the four fenders and on the tailgate are called QR codes. They allow passengers (or drivers) in other cars to simply point their smart phones at the code and click and it takes them to this website. I added these to the TKJ-mobile after I observed someone typing the website into their smartphone as they were trying to match my speed, while reading the side of my car, going down Route 309. This is much safer.

The first time Fr. John Oliver rode in it, he called it the Tardis, because it is so much bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside. On more than one occasion, five adult men have travelled, more or less comfortably in it, along with a considerable amount of gear. Sometimes when we arrive to serve, I get out of the car. People keep getting out of the car. Then we unload the gear, and I get the clown car crack. Hey, it’s paid for and it has lasted eight and half years so far.

The decals have attracted some interest. We have had conversations with people in neighboring lanes, who say they want to donate or get involved as we are driving up North Broad St. in Phila. This week we received seven large bags of winter coats that the folks at Selas Fluid Processing Corp. gathered. An employee apparently saw the TKJ-mobile and shot the QR code. One thing led to another. Thanks! May God bless you. Now, thanks, in part, to the clown car, a whole bunch of men, women and children will be warmer this winter.

The week before Christmas, I pulled into a parking space at the bank. My cellphone was ringing. I had a conversation with an icon customer. While I was still on the phone, a woman stood outside of my window, waiting to talk to me. I ended my phone call and rolled down my window and asked if I could help her. She said, “Do you take in homeless children?” I said, “No. Why? What is the story? Maybe we can find someone to help.” She told me she was about to kick her 26 year old son out of the house. I told her that he wasn’t a child. We began to discuss alternatives. She felt this was God’s appointment. Since then, we have been working with this troubled young man, who is struggling with a heroin addiction, and his family. It has been intense at times. He has helped us serve on the street the last three weeks and made the beans and rice last week. The guys really liked it. He is a skilled chef. Please pray for Jonathan and Jacqueline and Bob. They have a long and rough road ahead of them. We see this part of the ministry as homelessness prevention.

The TKJ-mobile is used as sort of a community car. Various people have used it when they do not have a car or theirs is in the shop, or it is the appropriate vehicle for the task.  It has been to Canada without me to help some poor, Vietnamese neighbors bless a baby. It has been to numerous court dates and to the county assistance office, with or without me. It has met countless buses and trains and a few planes. Yes, it’s funny looking. I put Mercedes stars on it, because the people we carry are worthy of high class treatment. Thank you all for helping me keeping it on the road with gas in the tank.

Oh, I forgot to mention the “Ah-OO-gah” horn that heralds our arrival at 1801 Vine at 8 pm each Thursday night where we serve between 150 and 200 tasty, nutritious, hot meals to homeless folks in Jesus’ Name.

Socks & Underwear for Christmas

For several years now, when asked what I want for Christmas, my standard reply has been, “Socks and underwear.” I mean, my life revolves around work and repairing the house. I buy the tools I need for that when I need them. (More likely these days, I borrow them from Uncle John.) New socks and underwear are kind of nice. I have four daughters. They let me buy my own socks and underwear. I am quite capable of doing so.

There are some folks who are quite happy to receive some new socks and underwear. You can have a part in giving it to them. We are going to be helping out in Tindley Temple United Methodist Church‘s soup kitchen’s annual Christmas party on Monday. Our part, in addition to Uncle John, Anthony and I helping serve, is to provide the socks and underwear in the gift baskets for the 75 women and 125 men who will be attending. Time is short. We already have the women’s things. We are gathering the men’s now. If you want to donate toward it, great! Use the Paypal or the donation page or mail a check. If you want to shop and deliver the items to our house on Saturday or Sunday, call and let me know what your plans are so I know how to plan. 267-497-0268

This is the first time we are working with Tindley Temple UMC. I think this is a good thing that those of us who are serving the homeless community are getting to know each other and working together.