Power Packs

For over twenty years volunteers have been making Power Packs for The King’s Jubilee. They were invented by Teresa Gilmore at St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church, East Greenville, PA, in their CCD school. A power pack is a paper lunch bag filled with non-perishable goodies. I need to stress this point. We need to be able to store these in case we have too many on a given night. Sometimes these are colored or decorated with stickers on the outside. We give them out at the end of our food line in the park in center city Phila. This way the people have something for the next day. Teresa set it up so that each grade brought in one of the items that went into the bags and a couple of the grades colored the bags, and a couple of the grades assembled the bags. For over twenty years, I have never been quite sure what all goes into Power Packs. I’m just in charge of the ministry. You can’t expect me to know everything that goes on. I generally have to look up Teresa’s phone number and have the new group that is going to do it call her to get the info. each time.  That changes today.

The list of items may vary. I have seen some Power Packs stuffed to  the point of bursting and I have seen much lighter ones. All were appreciated. We serve between 150 to 250 people on any given Thursday night in the summer. Numbers are a little lower the rest of the year. Your group does not have to make that many. We will save them up until we have enough, then give them away.

  • juice box or can or pack (Capri-Sun)
  • crackers & cheese or crackers & peanut butter package
  • small boxes raisins, etc.
  • small box cereal
  • cereal or granola type bars
  • snack pack of nuts, chips, trail mix, cookies, candy, yogurt nuts or raisins, sesame things, sunflower seeds
  • pudding pack, canned fruit
  • travel size hand sanitizer

You don’t have to include all of those items. You may think of some others that are appropriate. As long as they fit in the bag and are non-perishable, it’s OK.

Through the years, Vacation Church Schools, CCDs, Girl Scout and Cub Scout troops have made these. A workplace once made these as a service project. The last time we gave them out, Fr. Victor from St. Stephen Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Phila., came out to help distribute them from their VCS two weeks ago. They were the fattest, heaviest 150 Power Packs I have ever seen! God bless you!

P.S.  In case you were wondering what those things are in the image at the top of this post are, they are power packs for photo-voltaic collectors. It was the best image I could find for “power packs” on a Google image search, since I had never photographed any of ours. My wife says I have a very confusing sense of humor, or something to that effect, I bet it caught your attention, though. Eh?

More than enough blankets!

cropped-tkjprofile.jpgI tend to be pretty loosey goosey about planning for food for Thursday nights on the street. I have always felt that whatever God provided was right. Many times I would look at what was in the car and say that it must be going to be a small crowd that night. Other times, the car would be full, and I would know that the crowd would be large. Years ago, my godfather, Alex Smerkanich, of blessed memory, asked me how many sandwiches I needed on an average night. I told him I had no idea. He was very Type A, so he was not at all happy with my answer. He recruited people to sign up to make sandwiches on certain weeks of the month and wanted to know how many loaves he needed to get commitments for. I told him that I had never had to bring any home. His goal was to get me so many sandwiches that I had to bring some home. OK. Within three months, he did that, so he knew his ballpark number. We really don’t know if we have met all the need unless there are leftovers.

We regularly give out blankets. Normally we have to ration them out to whoever asked first for them. The last two weeks we have had a wonderful experience! We were able to just put all the blankets out and let everyone take as many as they wanted or needed. The week before last, I hollered to give away the last one and someone took it to give it to someone who wasn’t there. Last week I took two home. These are beautiful, plush blankets made by the Matushka Olga Sewing Group at St. Philip Orthodox Church, Souderton, PA. God bless you! We also gave away many scarves made from the remnants of the fabric. It was like a free bazaar!

What a blessing!

Teen SOYO Eastern Region Delegates Meeting

Last weekend, one of the service projects at the Teen SOYO Eastern Region Delegates Meeting hosted at St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church, Souderton, was to make power packs for The King’s Jubilee. Young people from different churches brought different parts of the kits and then assembled them last Saturday. Some brought juice boxes. Some brought granola bars. Some brought boxes of raisins. Some brought cracker and cheese packs. Some brought packs of peanuts.

They put them  into paper lunch bags. They assembled 300 complete power packs. We have several boxes of leftover ingredients to give out two weeks from now. We handed out the power packs last night. Some we gave to members of Eastern University’s YACHT Club for them to take with them as they went elsewhere in their ministry among the homeless.

These power packs provide a breakfast or lunch for the next day for the people we serve. They were very grateful to receive them.

Thanks! May God bless you.

Special Delivery

On Sunday, I delivered our last Operation: Clean Start kit to a man who recently moved off of the street into an apartment. I had brought one down for him on Thursday, but I was unaware that another man was going to meet me to receive his. We had delivered a kitchen set and several other pieces of furniture a couple of weeks earlier to the man who showed up unexpected for a Clean Start Kit. We had failed to deliver it then because we had so many missed cues that when we finally made the delivery we failed to grab the kit. We were going to deliver a leatherette couch and loveseat to him as well, but the stairwell to his apartment was too narrow, so Anthony found someone else who needed them and he and Uncle John got them to him.

At any rate, Carter needed a ride into Phila. to play bass at his church in Northern Liberties. I know some of the people who go there from the coalition of those serving on the street. I did not see any of them there. I endured the performance / service. Then Carter and I delivered the Clean Start Kit in center city to Howard. He was very grateful. Another man saw it and put in his request. He is due to move into his apartment in two weeks. So we need more Clean Start Kits. Anthony just called me while I was writing this to tell me that another fellow just moved off the street and needs living room furniture. Howard could use a microwave. So, if you can help us out with any of these, it would be greatly appreciated. We will figure out how to pick it up and deliver it. It’s what we do.

May God bless you.

Immediate Opportunity for Service

This is an intense week. We are in the middle of helping one man move out of an apartment and into shared housing to avoid living on the street. We helped with the Communaute Positive banquet, for last night. We are trying to gather household goods and supplies for another man who just moved off of the street into permanent housing.
This afternoon the moving party continues for boxes and small items , unless someone comes forward with a truck. We finish with the furniture tomorrow morning, when we get the pick-up back.
Tomorrow evening, we hope to deliver an Operation Clean Start kit, cupboard starter kit, vacuum cleaner, dishes, cooking utensils and pots and pans, to Darren, that is, if we can scare these things up or afford to buy them.
We have about $40 in the account.

The Clown Car


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.

We are movers and shakers.

You knew we are shakers because you read about how we took on City Hall and won, but did you know we are movers, too?

Last month we were given a refrigerator, a freezer, a washer, and a dryer by someone who had moved into a house that already had appliances. The washer and refrigerator went to households who have been experiencing hardship, but still manage to volunteer an amazing amount of time and energy to serve others in the community. The dryer and freezer went to another organization in Philadelphia who works primarily with new immigrants teaching English as a second language, but also serves the homeless. A toaster oven came along with this, as well. That went to a man who just moved off of the street into a room.

It has always been part of our vision that we want to move resources from the suburbs into the city. White flight, job flight, and church flight drained so many vital resources from the city. We need to see some of that flow back. This is the meaning of jubilee.

Right now, there are two other ministries in need of appliances. They don’t need to be brand new, but they need to have good life left in them. I don’t need to be moving junk. We need a good refrigerator, a freezer, an electric range, and a washer. If you have any of these, let me know. Or, if you want to bless a ministry with a new appliance, that would be gladly received as well.

Thank you.

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.

Operation: Clean Start Bucket Delivered

Last night we delivered an Operation: Clean Start bucket full of cleaning supplies and equipment to a couple who has just moved into an apartment. We also were able to give them some dishes and pots and pans. There was too much for them to carry home, so we gave them a ride. Daniel and Sadie are very grateful and want to convey their thanks to all who participate in this ministry. Sadie said thank you for the book, too. They also are thankful that we didn’t just back down in the face of the mayor’s intimidating, unjust decrees.

Next week, we will be delivering another Clean Start bucket and hope to have dishes, silverware and pots and pans to go with that, as well. Let us know if you have items you wish to donate. Or if you want to put gas in the tank of the TKJ-mobile, so we can keep making the deliveries, the donate button is up there on the right. May God bless you as you bless the poor in Jesus’ Name.