Saturday Distribution- Keep Heart

We distributed 113 chili, 200 water bottles, and 4 vegan dog food bags in a two hour span, thanks to our awesome veganteers, Dave, Erika, Christopher, Bear, Alicia, Ollie, Ivan, and Hannah. This was made possible by contributions made by Joanne Ehret. We did not have enough volunteers to go off and distribute in the vicinity of the park, so we stayed within it. Although the cloudy weather and the threat of rain kept people away, there was still enough of a need in the park to fulfill.

Dave and Erika distributing.
Dave and Erika distributing.
Erika distributing vegan chili.
Erika distributing vegan chili.
Park employees who were hard at work cleaning, stopped by later to enjoy a vegan chili.
Park employees who were hard at work cleaning, stopped by later to enjoy a vegan chili.
Lovely gentleman and Cinderella.
Lovely gentleman and Cinderella.

We are seeing repeat faces, getting to know the lovely Amanda, who has a way with the kids, and who also did us the favor of spreading the word that we were there.

Bear handing a water to Amanda.
Bear handing a water to Amanda.

Also seeing repeat doggy faces, like Frank’s baby.

Frank and his Baby.
Frank and his Baby.

We didn’t get a chance to take a lot of pictures while distributing, but when there were lulls in the rushes, I concentrated on the volunteers. Ollie and Bear have lots of fun together, as long as there are no sticks between them. Ollie loved this park passerby, Adela. He really loves the babies. And he got Dave to carry him horsey. After the distribution, we went out for some vegan ice cream at Sustainable NYC.

Ollie and Bear playing.
Ollie and Bear playing.
Ollie and Adela
Ollie and Adela
Dave the horsey.
Dave the horsey.
Ollie and Hannah enjoy a vegan ice cream treat!
Ollie and Hannah enjoy a vegan ice cream treat!

The trains were not working properly and I had to transfer a couple of times, struggling with the weight of the carts up and down the subway stairs by myself with Ollie. Some people had shoved us a little in the train, a certain sense of not having expressed myself successfully, and just a general sadness tied to a tiring day had settled in the train ride home. But as soon as I stepped out of my subway stop in Brooklyn, the sky had a lovely message for me. Keep heart. And really, that’s all I have, so I might as well hold on to it. A Heart that beats for the animals, for people in hardship, for my family and my community; a Heart that beats for a possible, better, softer, more just world for everyone, myself included.  Keep Heart, and do more. Always do more.

Keep Heart!
Keep Heart!
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Saturday Distribution: After the rain, a rainbow.

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”.

 

Julianna and Ollie show off the new volunteer badges "Friends of CoW"
Julianna and Ollie show off the new volunteer badges “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.

Julianna and Ollie with one of the carts, crossing the street into Tompkins Sq. Park
Julianna and Ollie with one of the carts, crossing the street into Tompkins Sq. Park

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.

Jesus
Jesus

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!

These guys were from Guatamala
These guys were from Guatamala
She asked for a hug after receiving a chili.
She asked for a hug after receiving a chili.
Ollie takes off his volunteer badge to enjoy his chili.
Ollie takes off his volunteer badge to enjoy his chili.
We're done! Julianna treated us to vegan ice cream afterwards!
We’re done! Julianna treated us to vegan ice cream afterwards!

Saturday Distribution with amazing photography

In our building's lobby before packing it all up in the zip car.
In our building’s lobby before packing it all up in the zip car.

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:

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Ollie enjoys a chili and keeps an eye on donations.
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With the beautiful gals from Edward Murrow High School- Student Advocates for Animal Rights. I love these ladies!
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Union Square
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Tompkins Square Park
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Alphabet City
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Meeting up- waiting for volunteers-
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Billy who sang “Chili Today. Tomorrow Tamale!”
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Billy!
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Washington Square Park
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Washington Square Park
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Washington Square Park
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Washington Square Park
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Chilis on Wheels Youth!
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Washington Square Park
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Washington Square Park
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Washington Square Park
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Cappuccino & Tattoo – Lower East Side
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Union Square Park
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Alphabet City
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ee cummings- Lower East Side
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Tompkins Square Park
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Tompkins Square Park
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Shameless the dog enjoyed a chili (and we left a bag of vegan dog food behind for her)
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He called us “The Chili Ladies!” and thanked us for a chili on a winter day when he did not feel well.
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Ollie Carrera
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Ollie and Julianna, our Volunteer Coordinator
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With Suman and Arvind- volunteers from Boston!
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Washington Square Park
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West Village
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In the West Village
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Ollie- Lower East Side
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Lower East Side- I wish I knew sign language, his face when he saw the chili is still imprinted in my memory.
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With Suman and Arvind- volunteers from Boston!
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In action-
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Lower East Side
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Washington Square Park
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Danny telling us about the changing city
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With Laura Dotterer- the photographer and my friend!
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Washington Square Park
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Tompkins Square Park
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Chili Team!
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Lower East Side
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Michelle Carrera and Ollie Carrera in Washington Square Park
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Ollie tired after a long day’s work

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CoW Portland delivers 31 meals!

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.

Biscuits and cole slaw
Biscuits and cole slaw
Serving the chili
Serving the chili
Peter and Kim preparing the vegan meals
Peter and Kim preparing the vegan meals

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.

Portland-distribution5.6h

Kim in the chili run
Kim in the chili run
Chilis on Wheels arrives
Chilis on Wheels arrives

They took a lot of pictures. I am included some here, for the rest, go to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/chilisonwheelsportland “Like” them if you haven’t already and congratulate them on their amazing first outing!

Chilis on Wheels in a truck!
Chilis on Wheels in a truck!

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 just getting started!

Doing the math: 1+1+you=600 vegan chili

I sat down and tallied up the total amount of vegan chili servings distributed to the homeless and the community in New York, Boston, and Puerto Rico. We have served over 600 meals since our inception. 600+ meals!

I’m a little in awe.

Community Sharing Vegan Chili.
Community Sharing Vegan Chili.

I want to deeply thank our volunteers, our chapter coordinators, our supporters, our Founding Contributors, A Well Fed World, The Pollination Project, AMNY, Eyewitness News, Despierta America, numerous other amazing blogs and webpages that have featured us, and everyone who chipped in during our initial crowdfunding campaign. I am so incredibly grateful that you have believed in me and my efforts, that you have trusted Ollie and I to bring these meals to the community, and that you have allowed me to spread the vegan message of compassion to animals, the environment, and people. Thank you for being a part of these efforts.

John
John

I also want to profoundly thank the community which has received us with open arms, and which fill us with real joy week after week. You are the reason.

A gentleman enjoys our vegan chili. Photo by Hilda Candelario
A gentleman enjoys our vegan chili.
Photo by Hilda Candelario

I am extremely overwhelmed with happiness at that large number of meals distributed, and we are just getting started! We have a lot of plans for the future and we hope you can continue the journey with us.

From the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU!

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Saturday Distribution (with lots of pictures!)

Our Saturday Distribution started off heavy. We packed 76 vegan chili portions, three cases and a half of waters, and some vegan dog food bags into three carts. The carts had never been heavier. We want to sincerely thank Ivan for all he does. He sometimes becomes the invisible hand, but his work for Chilis on Wheels is greatly appreciated. He strategically packs the bowls into bags, as I serve them, and then the bags into carts. Ollie and I could not carry those heavy carts down two flights of stairs. He then helps us take the carts into the city, then heads back to Brooklyn to go to work. So although we do not say it enough, thank you Ivan!

Ivan carrying down the carts
Ivan carrying down the carts
Michelle with the bags of dog food
Michelle with the bags of dog food

Julianna met us at the apartment and helped us with the carts in the train (they are becoming so hard to take that we are considering renting a Zip Car on Saturday mornings to take us to the city.) While in the train, a pregnant woman comes into the car and asks for help, food, or Avon products that she sells to support herself and her family. We talked to her, and offered her a chili which she sat down immediately to eat, and which she said was delicious. Her name is Beatrice b. Williams, and we took her Avon information. If you are interested in any products, please help her out. She is facing hard times but she has a strong spirit and she just needs a little help. You can go to: http://www.YourAvon.com/bbwilliams and she will receive the commission. You can also call her at (360) 530-5322 or email her at bbavonorder@yahoo.com We did not get a picture with her, the train was crowded and it wasn’t appropriate, but we hope you can help her out.  It dawned on me that we can try to use our platform to not just to provide emergency relief meals but also to help those that are seeking opportunities. Beatrice wants to provide for her family, let’s help her by ordering some products! (NOTE: Avon does not test on animals, and they have some vegan products, you can visit this link for a list of them: here )

When we got off the train, as Julianna was trying to find the volunteers she had recruited from Edward Murrow High School Key Club, Ivan spotted Jim, a regular customer, and went to give him a chili. Jim is an Army veteran, and a plumber by trade, but he is willing to do any type of work. Every week he asks me if I have any jobs for him. I have posted on Facebook before about his job quest, but I have not been successful in finding him any gigs. He told Ivan that he managed to get a construction gig and it required him to buy a hard hat, which he collected enough money for and purchased. However when he showed up to work, they told him he needed to have a harness too, and that they would not provide that, and Jim did not have enough for a harness. Ivan came back and told me the situation, and I said, let’s go get him the harness. I gave Ivan my card and told him to go to the Home Depot on 23rd street and get it. Alas, Home Depot was out of stock. Which could have been a blessing in disguise, since those harnesses are priced at around $50! (a little steep for me!) Here’s a link to it in amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Guardian-Fall-Protection-1703-Velocity/dp/B008LXRB7S/ref=cm_sw_em_r_dpcod_MUapvb10FVZVN_tt If you can purchase it for Jim, you can either send it to us and we will deliver it to him (get in touch at michellec@chilisonwheels.org ) or you can give it to Jim directly. He hangs out in 17th street and Park Avenue South. THIS is how we can make a real difference in people’s lives.

We met up with the amazing and eager high school students. We split up into two teams and hit the streets.

Students from the Key Club from Edward Murrow High School
Students from the Key Club from Edward Murrow High School
Team of Chili Runners in action
Team of Chili Runners in action

They distributed the chili and connected with people, and were gracious and kind, hard working and a joy to be around. I am in awe of participartory youth. They are such an inspiration! Chilis on Wheels, and the world is lucky to count on such amazing young people!

We met Matthew, a young man who although faces hard times himself, also helps out. He says a bakery gives him a large bag filled with their leftover bread, and he takes it to the park and distributes it. He told me of Franccesca, the Patron Saint, who visited him a few months ago and told him he needed to help those in need as well. Matthew was kind and funny and a pleasure to talk to. Thank you Matthew for what you do! He wanted us to take a picture of his back tattoo:

Matthew's tattoo- he wanted us to take a picture of
Matthew’s tattoo- he wanted us to take a picture of
Matthew
Matthew

We saw a homeless young lady with her dog. We gave her a chili and a bottle of water, and a bag of dog food. She did not want to be photographed, but allowed us to take a picture of Charlie, a sweet boy. She was very appreciative of the dog food, as she was almost running out of food for him. She said he was her companion and her protector and she took better care of him than she did of herself.

Charlie
Charlie

We finally made it to the park and met up with the other chili runner team. We spent some time at the table and met up with our new volunteers, Karla and Rodrigo. They are vegan dancers, and really lovely people. We look forward to further collaborations in the future!

Everyone is busy at the table
Everyone is busy at the table
With our new volunteers and friends, Karla and Rodrigo
With our new volunteers and friends, Karla and Rodrigo

Soon after, we divided into teams again. Two teams of chili runners and the team that stayed behind at the table.

John
John
Taron
Taron
Tariq
Tariq and Karla joke around. Such a flow of positive energy!
Omar
Omar

The teams came back. We reunited, we had a little talk, some of the students want to come back and volunteer. Julianna and I continued by ourselves. We met Antonio:

Antonio
Antonio

Antonio is a vegan, and we had a great time talking to him about veganism and about bringing it to our communities, to our inner cities and he said:  “if people change their diet, it will change the way they act”. He talked about kindness and positive energy and a life free of violence, starting with a diet free of violence. By the end of our conversation, I had goosebumps, he said “That’s positive energy right there. We are brother and sister now.” I gave him a hug. Our day was coming to a great close but it was not over just yet.

We continued on our way and met Italian Ice, a rapper (who said he one time played with Brazil’s national soccer team, but alas I don’t know soccer).

Italian Ice
Italian Ice

As we were handing him out the last of our chili, a man heads over to us and says “I see you doing a good thing. Here.” He handed me some folded up bills. “Thank you. Keep doing nice things.” His name was Chris and he was a tourist from Germany who apparently had watched us for a little bit as we handed out the food, and was touched by our work. Thank you, Chris! Kind words do keep us going, and you went out of your way to appreciate our work!

And that was our day. It was filled with hard work, but also filled with an amazing gratitude and satisfaction, and a full heart. Thank you to our volunteers: Ivan, Ollie, Julianna, Erin, Hannah, Gretta, Jeadelle, Riley, Karla, and Rodrigo. Thank you to to the contributions that made this possible: Martiza deJesus, Freddy Rivera, Denise Washington, Jamison Ba. All in all we gave out 76 chili servings, and 78 water bottles, and 2 dog food bags.  And at the same time, Chilis on Wheels Puerto Rico was doing their own monthly distribution. It was great knowing that across the ocean, we were also doling out compassion! (Stay tuned for a special report from them, coming soon!)

I hope that we can continue to do good things for/with our community! That we can help, not just with the vegan meals that we give out, but by rounding up our contacts and making sustainable change for some of the people we encounter, like Beatrice with her Avon selling, and Jim with his construction harness. Do consider helping them directly, or through us.

For a just, more compassionate world for ALL!

The Chili Treasure: a beautiful gift

Today I met the sweetest most beautiful people in New York. I am oficially giving them the title. Em Clare and her husband are both retired teachers. He is now a movie extra, and appears in corners of advertisements for “The Knick” in NY buses. Their positive and kind energy is contagious, and they had an easy, fun and caring repertoire between them. I fell in love with them instantly.

The most beautiful people in New York
The most beautiful people in New York

They came all the way down from North of Manhattan to entrust a piece of furniture that has been in their family for years, as Em says “through family traditions and transitions”. A beautiful piece, once designed for record players now painted chili red because “my son loved the Red Hot Chili Peppers band”. Their children are now away, and they are they are making room in their homes, and they chose Chilis on Wheels as the furniture’s destination.

Chili Treasure
Chili Treasure

The Chili Treasure as I now call it, holds our weekly groceries and our weekly supplies. (It also serves to display one of Ollie’s latest paintings of a whale.) As I placed and arranged the groceries and the supplies on it, I felt the same positive energy emanating from the Chili Treasure, as it had from the lovely couple, and I thought, the treasure is also the treasure map. For gloomy rainy days like the ones we have been having, the Chili Treasure is a reminder that in order to find joy, one must realize it’s already there all around us. Thank you Em, for thinking of us to entrust your treasure, for bringing us such joy this rainy morning, for sharing your beautiful heart. The Chili Treasure will be well taken care of and loved, will help house the food that will feed many, and will be a part of Chilis on Wheels history for years to come, as will you.