For a decade, hundreds of volunteers from a Greek Orthodox church almost an hour away have carpooled every month to New York City, where they set up an outdoor dining room to feed dozens of homeless people.
Packing as much food, clothing and toiletries as possible into four or five cars, volunteers from the Holy Trinity Church in New Rochelle show up in Midtown Manhattan on the last Thursday of each month to distribute dozens of meals and other supplies to those in need.
Despina Kartson, an NY-based marketing executive, author and philanthropist, recently published Last Night’s Soup Run — a new book that tells the stories of the many homeless men and women who have benefitted from the church’s outreach program.
We are happy to share the experiences of this dedicated group of volunteers and also spread the word about the book, whose proceeds benefit the monthly feeding events.
The day after each event, we receive a summary email from Kartson with the subject “Last Night’s Soup Run.”
We proudly share her latest email with our readers, in hopes that it will encourage people to support the efforts of the team in New York, or to inspire others to start their own program to help those less fortunate.
By Despina Kartson
The torrential rain didn’t stop us from venturing out to serve our guests during last night’s soup run. By the time we arrived at our spot in Manhattan, the skies cleared, the downpour subsided to a drizzle and we served more than 125 meals to the large group who were waiting for us.
No matter what the weather, those who are hungry or homeless still need to eat.
Our guests were exceptionally grateful – thanking us for “coming out in this weather”, saying “God bless you for what you do”, and expressing appreciation for the delicious meal. A couple of our guests helped us set up and serve.
One man told us that he remembered we provided food an extra day last month, on Orthodox Good Friday, and remarked about how kind he thought it was that we wouldn’t miss one of our regular evenings.
We talked with a homeless Vietnam veteran who stays in various shelters because he cannot afford rent and food — it’s one or the other. He showed us the ID card he carries which identifies him as a 9/11 survivor.
He was working on the 86th floor in one of the World Trade Center towers when he heard an explosion. The noise reminded him of his time in Vietnam and he knew something was terribly wrong.
He said he immediately started making his way down the building, assisting others along the way and noted how “everyone was the same color” when he made it outside to the rubble and ash covered streets.
After 9/11, his life turned into a downward spiral as he struggled with addiction and homelessness. Today, he said he is clean, volunteers helping teens with addiction and talking with them about survival- even as he survives every day without a home and wondering about his next meal.
We received an extraordinary financial donation from a close friend of one of our volunteers. The friend owns a restaurant in Florida, knows about our monthly Soup Run and donated money that was inadvertently left by a customer on the counter of the restaurant.
When the money was not claimed for quite some time, the restauranteur gave the money to our volunteer so that she could provide clothing for the homeless. The restaurant owner wishes that the customer who left the cash behind knows that the money has been put to very good use. What an amazing gesture!
Every month we are grateful to all who so generously support, through their actions and their offerings, the mission of the Soup Run. This month’s outreach was made possible by supporters and volunteers from Westchester County, NY; New York City; Norwalk, CT; New Jersey; Washington, DC; and Clearwater Beach, FL.
- Kathy Tzortzides for her sponsorship
- Manny Louros and Zachary Karounos for preparing the meals
- Minos Samoladas and Paulette Poulos for their generous donations which enabled us to purchase much-needed socks and underwear
- Maria Altikatis (Clearwater Beach, FL) for her generous donation which provided many new clothing items
- Emmy Kalmanides for baking koulourakia
- The New Jersey Philoptochos Metropolis for donating back to our Soup Run money raised from the sale of Last Night’s Soup Run
- Ruth and Kevin Walter from Dobbs & Bishop Fine Cheese for a box of new backpacks
- Nathan Darling of Beveridge & Diamond PC for a box of hats and hand sanitizer
- Deborah Farone for toiletries and clothing
- Irene Drivas for the bags of clothing, shoes and special request items
- May Vlachos (St. George NYC) for preparing the Mental Health Clinic guide and including the Soup Run dates
- Constance and Georgeann Mavrovitis and Cynthia Herzegovitch for organizing the clothing and toiletries
The next soup run will take place on June 27th. To support this effort, contact Despina via email here.
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