It’s easy for me to get hung up on numbers. I was a program data director for non-profits in my previous life. My days revolved around numbers, goals and outcomes, meeting quotas, measuring progress. Now as I seek funding for Chilis on Wheels, I also go back to my training and concentrate on numbers, which foundations seem to thrive on. This weekend alone was fantastic for numbers: In NY: 125 meals. 200 water bottles, 4 dog-food bags. 12 vegan education engagements; in San Diego: 30 meals, 30 water bottles; in Puerto Rico: 15 meals, 13 water bottles, 4 dog food bags. The numbers were great! But, it’s not about numbers. I am not removed from what we do. 125 meals, means 125 people, with faces and names and lives, experiencing hardships at a level I cannot thoroughly understand.
125 people that stop to chat with us and wish us luck, and shake our hands, and allow us to glimpse a world beyond our own, allow us for a very brief period of time, to understand that the world does not in fact revolve around us. And I’m not going to lie, it give us a sense of purpose in our lives and a satisfaction of doing our part to ease someone else’s hardship even if it is as momentary a relief, as providing lunch, and a smile, and a chat, and handshake.
This weekend the kids really stepped up. Ollie and Bear scouted the park letting people know that we were there, encouraging them to get a warm meal. They then also gave out chili and water at the table. I really enjoy seeing the kids engaged in their community, having a positive frame around the word “work”, and really having genuine fun helping people.
Our other youth, our teenagers were also Veganteers with us this weekend. Grace, a senior from Ed Murrow, became team leader as she took charge of a cart and distributed along Avenue C and the park’s vicinity.
While at a table we met a number of people curious about veganism and we talked to them about it, and shared ways in which they too can incorporate compassion in their diet. Some kind people even made donations, with which we purchased more water bottles as we ran low.
Overall it was another great Saturday distribution, and a huge thanks goes to the people whose donations made it possible: Amanda Fields and Ronald Manning. And a huge thanks to our Veganteers: Anthony, Julianna, Christopher, Bear, Ollie, Ivan, Grace, Melissa, and Laura.
The numbers don’t lie, we ARE providing a much needed service to the community, and we are ambitious in our goals of becoming a permanent vegan food-hub in the community, but it’s because of people like John and Ed, and Tyrone, Aaron, and Maria. Because we want to help one another, because food should be free and no one should ever go hungry, and animals are lives and should never be considered food.
**Here are some pictures of the distribution, courtesy of Laura Kolbe Dotterer. (Stay tuned in a few days for pictures of San Diego and Puerto Rico’s distribution!)**
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com ) 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.
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:
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.
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!
Soon after, we divided into teams again. Two teams of chili runners and the team that stayed behind at the table.
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 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).
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.
On Sunday we distributed 70 vegan chili and 76 water bottles! This was possible due to contributions from Anita Follins! A huge thank you to our volunteers: Hilda, Leiah, Julianna, Leticia, Rodney, and Rodney Jr., and Ollie! Slowly we are getting to know people and hear their stories, and will be adding some of them here starting next week with their permission, of course.
We have reached the maximum amount of chili servings we can make (70 give or take), due to the size of the stove and the size of the pots. Our next step will have to be finding a place where we can cook. Although I have reached out to community organizations, churches, and other soup kitchens, and even NYU , we have not had any success, most places we have contacted have not even taken the time to message us to decline. If you or someone you know can help us secure a kitchen on Saturday mornings, please get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot increase the amount of chili distributed until this happens, but the need in our community grows by the minute.
We were interviewed twice this week: by Fabio Chaves from Vista-se, the largest Brazilian vegan online magazine, and by Victoria Clark from Thursday Inteview, a showcase of in depth interviews with “dynamic creatives, innovators and troublemakers”.
Gracias a Birmania Ríos y a las personas lindas de Despierta América en Univisión, aquí les comparto el vídeo del segmento en donde hablaron sobre nuestra labor de traer chili vegano a personas necesitadas.
Un millón de gracias! Si quieren aportar a esta labor, por favor visite la sección de Donate aquí: https://chilisonwheels.wordpress.com/donate/ y presione sobre el botón para hacer una aportación segura con paypal o con tarjeta de crédito. Si quiere enviar un cheque, comuníquese con Michelle por correo electrónico a email@example.com
¡Mi corazón sigue creciendo, y el de Ollie también!
We want to thank Birmania Ríos and the lovely people from Despierta América in Univisión for this segment they did on us and our effort of bringing vegan chili to people in need.
My heart grows with every word of support and encouragement.
Many thanks! If you would like to support our work, please visit the Donate section here: https://chilisonwheels.wordpress.com/donate/ and press the Donate button to make a secure donation with paypal or with a credit card. If you would like to send a check, please get in touch with Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org