To make a real difference costs more than a meal a week.

I can’t express how disappointed I am with how little we have accomplished at The King’s Jubilee. We have been at it for over 26 years. By this time we had hoped to have made street side serving of meals unnecessary, because we had played a major role in ending homelessness in Philadelphia. Instead, we can count on two hands the number of people we have had a large part in making the transition off the street and perhaps 100 more to whom we gave some little bit of help through the years move off the street. I know this is not standard fundraising procedure. Most ministries speak very glowingly and, as we used to say, “evangelastically” about their accomplishments to garner support. We can only do what we have resources to do. It is that simple. Somehow I expected the church to get behind work like this, whichever church, and for pastors to invite and to recommend participation and support. Through the years, that has rarely happened. I have gotten more jealousy, abuse, and invitations to leave churches from pastors, because of this ministry. Yet, none of them has been able to say that what I am doing or teaching is wrong.

Now, I need you to get over your distaste for my honesty and help save some lives! 

A few weeks ago, I posted an appeal to help save “Rashawn’s Diamond”. Diamond recently was hospitalized with tuberculosis and walking pneumonia. After a couple of days in ICU and the rest of the week on the respiratory care floor, she was released back onto the street. She and her husband, Rashawn, were able to spend nights in one of two shelters in the city that allow married couples to stay together. Daytimes were still rough, lugging all of their stuff around in the horrible weather. They are little people. Rashawn is disabled due to his dwarfism, so the type and amount of work he can get is limited. We were only able to raise $301 toward what we thought was going to be $500 for the month for rent. We kicked in an additional $249 to make up the difference and provide for some food. We knew that they owed this SRO hotel $230 from the last time they had stayed there. I had hoped we would raise the whole amount, since it was Great Lent. For most people in Montgomery and Bucks Counties the extra $230 is not that much, maybe a ski outing with the kids, or a dinner out at Wm. Penn Inn or Maize. At any rate, a pastor of a poor, storefront church, who works at a secular job, came up with the difference. We had a hard time making connection with him. Rashawn & Diamond came home with me on Thursday night and slept in our little living room, with the cats. We all had a good breakfast of bacon and eggs. Diamond took delight in cutting and sharing a pink grapefruit with Rashawn. They have talked to me everyday since to remind me to hug the cats for them, and named us honorary grandparents. We are not old enough for that, but, you know, it’s hard to judge with us white people.

Because it took an extra day to get the money, all of the cheaper rooms were taken for the month, plus the management raised the rent on all the rooms by $100, so the rent for their room ended up being $700, but they don’t have to walk down the hall for the bathroom. I stayed until I was sure they were getting in. I felt like I was in a scene from a bad detective movie from the early 1970s, except there was an bumper sticker on the front desk window. in front of the extremely rude, young black man who was hollering at Diamond that “No you can’t try before you buy! All the rooms look alike! It’s first come first serve! If you don’t take it, someone else will!” I was tempted to try to gently remind him that he was in the “hospitality” industry, but I didn’t want to end up on the 6 o’clock news: “Lifelong homeless minister gunned down at the Blue Moon Hotel this afternoon in an altercation with hotel staff, along with two dwarves. Shooter claims self-defense.” It was definitely a new experience for me. It is disappointing to me that such places exist and are in such demand. Rashawn and Diamond are glad to be there. It is out of the cold and damp. They have a bed and a shower and a TV. They don’t have to make a major plan to find a toilet.

$700 a month is more than we usually raise for the whole ministry. People spend a lot on food and cups and such. I understand that. There is more to this ministry than Thursday night. There always has been. Yet when I say we need money, it doesn’t seem to sink in most of the time. I want to help these people. I have known Rashawn for over 20 years. He is a straight arrow. He works whenever and wherever he can. Diamond needs to be off the street in order to live. They were on the verge of getting a place once before. They are in line to get a place now; just a couple more steps. They need a reliable address and good phone reception to be able to complete the process and to apply for the other benefits they need. This is a major flaw in the so-called safety net. Once one has fallen through to the point of homelessness, one needs a boost up just to get hold of the net again. If I could, I would just write a check. I can’t even pay my own mortgage or utility bills. We’re on SNAP and Medicaid, because what I do is worthless to the church. I’m alive. Diamond will die if she has to live outdoors. Take a true pro-life action. Save a beautiful life! Give using the donate button below and everything given will go to help Diamond & Rashawn transition off the street into permanent housing.

May God bless you!

dayliliesinwinterThe artwork featured above is: Remembrance of Summers Future & Past
The same plant in two seasons. The bare sticks poking through the snow reminding us of the past and future glory. This is what Holy Week and Pascha are about. It is not just a commemoration of past events. We are remembering the coming in glory of the Kingdom of God! This is Spring Revival Time! It is time to shake off the doldrums, renew our almsgiving and re-energize for action, so that it may be done on “earth as it is in heaven.”
This art piece is available in a strictly limited edition signed by the artist, me, museum quality printed on canvas and framed in a handcrafted frame designed for this piece. The art is 13″ x 7″ plus frame. Call 267-497-0268 for pricing, etc.
Summer is our busiest time at The King’s Jubilee.

My Wildest Dreams

I started to put together a wish list before Christmas, but everything takes so much longer for me these days. Plus, it just didn’t feel right, you know, my mother’s voice in my head is a powerful thing. We were taught never to ask for what we wanted for Christmas or birthdays, but to be surprised and grateful for whatever we received. Of course, in my eyes, my mom was the best gift giver ever! She was so in tune with what I liked. Only one time did she buy me something I did not like. It turns out, she did not like it either, but she did it because of my joining an ultra-conservative Baptist church. It was a perfectly hideous, dark blue, sharkskin suit. She was so happy when I wanted to exchange it.

At any rate, this is for the ministry. At this point, we need everything if we are going to continue. Next month will mark the completion of our 26th year in ministry. There was a time about 18 years ago, we had a couple of men who had been involved in military logistics and procurement. They had peculiar gifts for locating and bargaining for whatever one needed and wanted to donate their skills to TKJ. I put the word out to some of the ministries in the city and told them to give us their wish lists including their wildest and craziest desires. Rev. Ora Love giggled and asked, “Really? Can I get an electric golf cart?” Within a week, we delivered an electric golf cart to her office in Richard Allen Homes for her to cart around her books for the GED and literacy classes. So now, I am going to share with you all of my wild and crazy wish list. I will further preface this by saying that, if you know how we have lived for the last 30 years, you will know that our house is a staging area for the ministry. Bags and boxes of clothes or cups or stacks of blankets may be found in our living room or kitchen at any given time. Our barn is filled with furniture waiting to go to people moving off the street. The office for the ministry is in what would be the dining room.

So here goes:

  • $1,450/month more in monthly pledges. We currently have $550/month. The smallest is $5. The largest is $120. Whatever is comfortable for you: Paypal, recurring debit from credit union or bank, check by mail. This would allow us to be secure in ministry, and expand services.
  • IMMEDIATE NEED: Four months mortgage payments & late fees to avoid foreclosure, so The King’s Jubilee doesn’t lose it’s base of operations. $6,000
  • Work crews to finish the barn; as well as some of the building materials. Our barn was to be our office and storage area for the pantry, as well as the prep kitchen for Thursday nights. We have a lot done. Then I got hospitalized with infections, then strokes and migraines and the infection ate into my spine, etc., leaving me disabled. This would help multiply the ministry both in Philadelphia and in the Bucks-Mont area.
  • Nissan Taxi. The TKJ mobile is 10-1/2 years old. It still works well. We find that we are cramped most of the time. The Nissan Taxi or that sized Nissan van with five passengers and luggage behind would be ideal for our hauling needs for the nights we serve and for helping set up new households, when people move off the street. We don’t know the price or even if Nissan is able to sell us one. 😉 I have stopped in to talk to them, because the proper time to shop for a new car is always when one can’t even afford to fill the gas tank.
  • IMMEDIATE NEED: Money to inspect the TKJ-mobile, which probably means new tires. It is out of inspection now. So we are counting on the police not noticing. The last two weeks meals were paid for partly by what little bit of credit we have left on a Visa card.
  • Drivers. I can’t drive at night, due to damage done from strokes. We have a few. At times, they are all busy with work, or ill, and I have to scramble. It helps if you are a somewhat aggressive driver and are comfortable with city driving, have an eclectic taste in music and a good sense of humor.
  • Friends. One would think this would not need explaining. Alas, it does. Jesus said, “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” You don’t find one by just sitting next to one at church. Paul clarified in Ephesians 4 that we grow together when we go out into the world and do actual works of service together.

PedroThank you for whatever you can do to help fulfill my wildest dreams. They are all to serve the poor and homeless in Jesus’ Name, which means according to his will, with dignity and respect.

By the way, if we get the taxi, it will be painted orange with The King’s Jubilee stickers on it and no taxi sign.

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.

Kitchen Jumpstart

When people move off the street into an apartment, it is not like when you moved out of your folks house into your first apartment after college, or when you got married. There are no shower gifts to help stock cupboards. Their are no parents’ homes to go home to, to raid for this or that, or to figure out what you might need, or to borrow  from, until you can afford one or some of this or that for yourself. There is not enough money in food stamps, especially after the GOP cuts, to set up a kitchen to cook from scratch, yet that would save money in the long run. This is why we call our program Kitchen Jumpstart. It gives a family a bit of a boost, just like when you use jumper cables to start a car on an ice cold day. Once the initial charge gets things running, the car may have just enough momentum to keep running on its own power. That is the hope.

This is a great way to participate in this ministry in a “bite- sized” way, as well as to incorporate remembering those less fortunate in your everyday life.  You can buy an item or two each week as you do your household shopping, or all at once, your choice. Remember to pray for those who will receive  the jumpstart and for the peace and safety of their home and yours as you are putting it together. Our first kit was put together by several families cooperating. Here are the contents:

1 large mixing bowl
32 oz. bottle of cooking oil
Package of wooden (3) spoons
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
5 lb bag of unbleached flour
5 lb bag of granulated sugar
Baking soda
Baking powder
Dried basil
Dried oregano
Granulated garlic
Optional: Copy of a basic cookbook or cooking magazine

We ask that you put it all in a reusable grocery bag and call me to either drop it by or have someone pick it up. May God bless you.

This is a companion project to our Operation: Clean Start.

Cookies and Hot Chocolate

christmas-cookiesPlease remember to bake a plate of cookies for the homeless while you are making your Christmas preparations. We will be serving homemade Christmas cookies and hot chocolate with the meal on the day after Christmas.

It is not that big a deal to make an extra plate of cookies, but it makes a big impact to have a touch of home and the tender loving care it represents to the people we serve.
They need to be delivered to our house before 6:45pm on Dec. 26.

Thank you. May God bless you.

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.)

Holy Thursday

Feetwashing icon by the hand of Nick Papas
by the hand of Nick Papas

Last week was Holy Week. Normally, we do not serve on Holy Thursday or as we call it, Great Thursday, because we are all in church for the 12 Gospels Matins. Some years, we have managed to find non-Orthodox people to serve in our place, but not always. This year, with all the upheaval and tension due to Mayor Nutter’s decrees, I decided that it was important that we be consistent in our service and presence on the street. Kaminsky’s made sandwiches. Joanne Wizneski brought over goodies from Landis Supermarket’s bakery. John Haggerty and Ha Nguyen rode with me. John still had to complete the tomb for St. Philip’s, but was not going to let that stop him from helping me serve the poor.  While I was making soup, Ruth and John Arn stopped by and asked if I was going down to serve and could they join me, and what did I need. I told them they could make hard boiled eggs, which they were happy to do. We had three big foil pans of pasta, vegetable salad leftover from the week before. As we were setting up to serve, two young mothers and their little children came up and asked if they could help us. I said, “Sure!” These little girls were very aggressive with the sandwiches. Very cute! They are planning on coming back again. Maybe I will get a chance to learn their names.

The week before, when I had told John Haggerty that I was going to be going down to the city on our Holy Thursday and would miss our footwashing service; he said, “Why don’t we bring water and towels and wash feet there?” He planted that thought. I couldn’t think of a good reason not to.

We brought an extra insulated container of hot water, a dozen, new washcloths and a dozen, new, small, terrycloth towels. After we were done serving and giving out clothes. I read the Gospel passage. A couple of the guys sat along one of the low walls and I washed and dried their feet. One of them is a Georgian who says he is an Orthodox Christian, but was not aware that it was Great Week. I directed him to the Pascha service at St. John Chrysostom Church two blocks away from where we serve.

We were blessed. We had a full crew and a very happy crew! We had enough food for everyone. I know this, because we had some leftovers. We had several good conversations. There were a lot of thank you’s and three good hugs.

We got home a little after 10pm. I checked in with Bethann, then joined John at his shop and helped him do some final sanding on parts of the tomb and help with some assembly. Then I went home for a couple hours sleep, went back to the shop for final assembly and transport of the tomb over to church. It was a great night! (But I’m too old for that stuff.)

“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” – Gospel of St. John 13:14

The Donate Button is on the Right

I did the math, and over the last 23 years, The King’s Jubilee has served or provided about half a million meals to homeless people or to needy children or seniors on fixed incomes. We have distributed tons of clothing and blankets to families in need. We have moved dozens of houses full of furniture from those who needed to get rid of it to those who needed it but could not afford it. We have redistributed dozens of used computers to people who needed them to learn basic skills or school children in the inner city. We have purchased vehicles for other ministries who serve in Jesus’ Name, even once acquiring an electric golf cart to help a tutor get around Richard Allen Homes project with all her books and teaching tools.

We have done all this and more on a frayed shoestring, with no building other than my home and no salaried staff. I say all this to say we are tired and we need your help to do greater things in the next generation. Please dig deep and give generously.

Tuesdays in Philadelphia – over

We have stopped serving on Tuesdays in Philadelphia. The Word In Action International Ministries has been able to recruit more volunteers. Also, the city is closing the Ridge Ave. Shelter, in front of which they serve, as their second site. Then there is my health. I have just been running ragged, trying to keep the business going, serving two nights on the street, laying the groundwork for the future of this ministry, while doing battle with whatever demons are whispering in the mayor’s ear.

I’m tired and broke and my customers are tired of waiting three weeks or more for their icons.