No volunteers. Burnt pot of chili (mostly rescued and fixed). Zip Car website down. Hour long traffic jam. Forgotten wallet at home. When it rains, it pours. Did I mention it was ALSO raining?! That was the start to our Saturday Distribution. I took a deep breath and said to myself, it will be what it will be. And it was.
We made new volunteer badges so that our volunteers can be recognized while we are giving distributions. We have called our volunteers “Veganteers: Friends of CoW”.
We arrived after an hour and a half in what is usually a 20 minute ride to Tompkins Square Park. Within 20 minutes we had already distributed close to 40 meals in that park alone. Because it was only Julianna, Ollie and I, we did not have a chance to take many pictures. The crowds gathered around us asking, “You have something to eat? What are you giving out?” It was an overwhelming experience. Usually we approach people, here they were rushing to see if we had something to eat, with a heart-breaking desperation.
Jesus, a Puerto Rican man in this park and in this rush stayed behind to talk to us. He asked us to come back again please, that people are hurting, and they’re hungry. I promised him we would return next Saturday. It’s time like these that I become impatient in our goal to have a daily soup kitchen with daily chili running teams. The need is so outstanding.
We started a new tradition of updating our routes in Twitter in real time, and asking you to Tweet us the location of people in the streets of Lower Manhattan that might need lunch. We ask you that if you happen upon a person set up in a sidewalk in Lower Manhattan on Saturday, you tweet us the cross streets and we will try to deliver a vegan chili. We hope it catches on!
We were done with our chili distribution fairly quickly. From now on, if we have enough volunteers, we will be splitting one team to cover Union Square from Tompkins, and the other to set up the table at Washington Square Park. Once at Wash Park, we can reshape another team to send to Central Park too. But we need volunteers! If you can give a few hours of your time and want to get in a little exercise by walking, please get in touch! We need at least 6 to 9 volunteers to cover all these locations. Be a Veganteer Friend of CoW!
All in all, the comedy of errors ended and we concluded the day with full hearts and fiery determination to reach our goals of increased services. After the rain, a rainbow! Pooling our energies together we can truly make a difference in our community, and in our world!
Distribution of May 9, 2015 started as usual, with a kitchen full of chili and water bottles, and high spirits for the day. We again rented a zip car in order to take us to the city. It is the best option for us right now because the carts are super heavy in the beginning and they are really hard to take up and down stairs in the subway. However, this is an expensive alternative. It runs us 30 to 40 dollars a week that we could be putting into food (that would be 20-25 complete meals). If we could find a volunteer with a car that would be willing to drive us to the city every week it would be a blessing for us.
We made it to the city and met up with our volunteers. Arvind came all the way from Boston to volunteer and meet us and see how it’s done and perhaps form a chapter there. We were very excited to meet him and his friend Suman, and would love for the Boston chapter to form. We also met up with my friend Laura who would volunteer and take pictures. She is a fantastic photographer and we were very excited to have her with us. And we met with my gals from Edward Murrow High School, the Animal Advocates for Animal Rights, my favorite crew, my high schoolers, Brianna and Grace.
We split into groups and hit the streets. The weather was cloudy and not a lot of people gathered around. Not as many as usual. We made it to Washington Square Park pretty fast and set up there, but again we did not have a lot of traffic. Our plan had been to have an offshoot team go into Central Park but last minute developments made us change course and instead all of us packed up and headed off to Tompkins Square Park.
We missed the park on the way there and got a little lost in Alphabet City, but we also gave out a lot of chilis in that section of town. By the time that we got back on course and found Tomkins Sq. Park, we had around 15 chilis left and we gave them out in 20 minutes. It made us realize that we need to play around with our routes a little more. Because we have a limited amount of food that we can give out, we need to be strategic in our delivery. We came to the conclusion that we need to experiment with our routes in the next couple of weeks in order to safely say “this is the best route”. Our plan for next week is to begin in Tompkins Sq. Park and make our way to Wash Park and Union Square. If we have the volunteers that we can spare, we will send an offshoot team to hit up Central Park.
We met some beautiful people in the way. One guy said “Hey, you’re the Chili Ladies!”, and then proceeded to tell me how he does not remember quite well when he saw us sometime in the winter, because he was ill, but that the warm chili made him feel a lot better, and helped him “come back”.
The gals met a lady who would not take the chili unless she gave something back. So she gave them some honey buns and insisted on the trade. The gals then gave the honey buns away as well.
We met a deaf man who did not understand us, but when we took the chili out to show him, he beamed up and clapped. His face of surprise and joy is still with me.
We talked a little more with Danny, the man who for the very first time called me “The Chili Lady” and whose affection encouraged me to grow Chilis on Wheels. His family comes from North Carolina. He moved here in 1965 when he was 13 years old, and he says this city has changed so much, mostly for the worst.
We met some guys who took the chili but not the water. They had a bottle of water next to them and they said “Why take more than we need?” And that so perfectly summarizes the way the world should be, the world we are trying so hard to build, the biggest lesson I am trying to leave upon my son. This was Mother’s Day weekend, and after that encounter, the motto for the weekend and perhaps my life became “Don’t take more than you need.”
We gave out 79 chilis, 100+ water bottles, 2 dog food bags, thanks to contributions made by Amanda Fields, Sarah Wolf, and Ronald Manning. A huge thank you to our volunteers Laura, Arvind, Suman, Grace, Brianna, Hannah, Julianna, Ivan and Ollie! I leave you with the photos from the distribution by my dear friend Laura Kolbe Dotterer:
The Portland chapter of Chilis on Wheels had their first trial vegan chili run! They distributed 31 meals!
They are owners of Open Source Cafe, an amazing vegan food truck, and so they already have perfect facilities to make and distribute the chili.
They prepared chili, coleslaw, and biscuits! All vegan of course!
Kim reports to being surprised at the amount of women that they met living in the streets. Statistically in the United States 38% of people sleeping in shelters are women. It’s a lower number than their male counterpart, but it’s still pretty high, and this does not include people that sleep in the streets.
This picture made me particularly emotional. They made a banner to put on the side of their truck with our logo and our slogan. I admit to breaking down in tears when I saw it. It dawned on me that the efforts that Ollie, Ivan, and I started have become so much large than us and those initial 15 meals we prepared. Chilis on Wheels is now in 4 states and Puerto Rico. It’s amazing, really. I am overflowed with gratitude to Peter and Kim for taking it to Portland, to our supporters, our fans, our friends, our family, our community.
We are super excited to announce the launch of a Denver chapter!
It will be led by Jacqueline Carrera.
Jacqueline Carrera is a vegetarian, animal lover and plant enthusiast residing in Denver, Colorado. She is currently studying botany. She loves watching Saturday morning cartoons and digging her hands in dirt.
They will be carrying out their first distribution at the end of May. If you live in the area and want to get involved serving vegan chili to those in need, please get in touch with her at email@example.com
For a just compassionate world for ALL!
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Last Saturday we successfully served 83 vegan chili servings and 100+ water bottles. We also gave out 3 vegan dog-food bags to homeless people with dogs in their family. This was made possible by donations made by Joanne Ehret and Diane Gandee Sorbi. A HUGE thank you to our volunteers, Ivan, Julianna, Grace, Brianna, Ruth, Hilda, Leia, Eric, Sammie, and Ollie.
Our day started by renting a zipcar ($30 for 2 hours) that would take us to the city. We packed it with chili and all our materials and our carts and the foldable table and drove to Manhattan. Ivan let us off in our usual meetup spot and drove back to return the car and then go to his job. The zipcar is pricey but is so worth it. We don’t own a car and on all of our previous distributions we have taken the subways, trying to use wheelchair accessible platforms for the elevators, but still needing to carry the carts up and down stairs. (I am so ashamed that we do not have universal wheelchair accessibility in our public transportation) With the zip car it became a lot easier to take the carts heavy with the weight of 83 chili and 100+ water bottles. I will have to look into investing in a cost-effective mode of transportation, perhaps look into seeking a used car donation, or a grant that will cover transportation costs. If you have any ideas for us, do let us know!
We started the day seeing Matthew. We met him last week, he receives a bag of bread from a bakery and distributes it among his homeless friends. He was happy to see us and insisted in trading the chili for a pair of sunglasses. They look really cute and I might wear them next weekend!
We split into two teams in order to cover more territory as we walk to Washington Square Park.
We met Lucky the dog. His guardians told us they rescued him, and warned us not to get too close because “He isn’t too fond of people. Then again, neither are we.” They were very nice and were really appreciative in particular of our dog food.
We also saw Nick and Dean again and were able to give them some of our vegan dog-food.
We also saw Chris again. We met him on one of our first chili distributions when it was still really cold out. When I approached him to see if he wanted a chili, I forgot to mention that it was a vegan. He smiled, but shook his head and said “Thank you but I don’t eat meat”. I immediately rushed to tell him that it was vegan and how we don’t eat meat either, then he looked at us intently and said “You were in the paper!” His smile and his happiness was so infectious, so warm and affectionate and kind. Ever since then we saw him weekly in Union Square and always the same loving calm exchange. A few weeks ago we stopped seeing him, and I was worried. I hoped that he was ok, but I really have no way of knowing, so when we saw him this Saturday, I was so incredibly happy. I asked him where he was, and he said that he’s been around, so we must just have missed each other. The parks are getting busier and it might be that we just do not coincide. I was so relieved and happy that he was ok that I took a selfie with him, and I did not waste the opportunity to tell him how much his positive energy means to us, how much he matters, and that he was missed.
With our friend Chris
Once we reached Washington Square Park, we set up the table, met up with some of our other volunteers and then had two teams head out in different directions, as some of us stayed behind to take care of the table, hand out occasional chili, and advertise about our services.
We have new things planned for next week, new routes. We are thinking of sending an offshoot team to Central Park and cover some of the need there. According to the New York Coalition for the Homeless, 60,484 people slept in the homeless shelters every night in February of this year. With our chili in lower Manhattan, we are barely scraping the tip of need. Next week we will gage what we can do in another part of the city.
Thank you to our volunteers, our supporters, our funders, and our community! Thank you for growing with us!
We are thrilled to announce the launch of a Chilis on Wheels Portland Chapter!
It will be led by Kim Georgeades and Peter Van.
Portland native mom and hairdresser with one teenage kid still in the nest. We’re living a strict vegan life with kindness toward all living creatures (including our darling kitty Cecelia and sassy puppy Guthrie) as our #1 drive. Partnering up with my #1 fave fellow vegan man to focus on helping hungry folks.
I am a recovering software consultant turned food cart owner. I run a cart, Open Source Cafe in Southeast Portland offering plant-based comfort food such as chili and vegan Philly Cheese Steaks. My mission is to offer reasonably priced, ethically sourced food for busy vegans on the go and to provide an easy access point to plant-based, cruelty-free diet for non-vegan folks.
I’m raising two big-hearted girls (8 and 15) who will be working right alongside us. While I have a bit of activist in me, my approach is always to be non-judgmental, non-confrontational, and apolitical at point of service. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Portland’s premier vegan stylist to extend the reach of Chilis On Wheels.
Thank you Kim and Peter! They will be starting distribution early next week! Like them on Facebook, give them a warm welcome, and stay tuned for their upcoming vegan chili distribution!
ANNOUNCEMENT: Chilis on Wheels is always growing. We have an addition to the family! We are so excited to announce the opening of a San Diego chapter!
Tara Duke lives in San Diego with her human, feline and canine loved ones. She is a passionate vegan excited about building supportive community in San Diego and advocating positive change.
Thank you Tara for becoming involved in your community and taking Chilis on Wheels to the west coast! We are very happy to have you helping us dish out compassion!
The San Diego chapter hopes to begin distribution at the end of May. In the meantime, they need volunteers and basic supplies like: a large cooking pot, a wheelie cart, and a foldable table. If you live in San Diego and would like to be involved, please get in touch with Tara at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like their Facebook page, found here and share it with friends! For a just, compassionate world for ALL!