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.
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.
Also seeing repeat doggy faces, like Frank’s 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.
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.
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!)**
2 24 QT pots of chili
1 smaller pot in an electric burner
2 pans of corn bread
4 cases of water bottles
That’s how our Saturday distribution of vegan chili started. We packed it all up and drove to the city. Upon crossing the street in to the park and before even clearing the ramp we were swamped by a crowd of people asking for a chili. We have never had an experience like this. People were shoving each other, trying to get something to eat. Think about it, they are so hungry they were pushing and shoving to get something to eat. My world was transformed this Saturday, once again.
Thankfully, Stephanie saw us and came to us and helped us manage the crowd and give out the chili. We could not have done it without her. People listened to her and respected her, and then made a line that we took care of. In 5 to 10 minutes we gave out close to 60 of those chili meals.
None of the volunteers had yet even arrived!! What were we going to do?!
Julianna went to get bagels at a nearby supermarket. Anthony bought bags of vegan sandwiches from a nearby health food store. Jon from Community Solidarity who we just happened to see by coincidence had a case of bananas on his car and gave it to us to distribute. Day Saved!
Volunteers came, a lot this week, and we stayed in Tompkins Square Park since need was so overwhelming there. We served 200 people in this park alone! 200!
Our volunteers really saved the day though. Ollie and Bear gave out the bananas and later scouted the park telling people we were there. Volunteers prepared some sandwiches and bagels and also went around in the perimeter of the park and its close vicinity.
We met Israel, who has lived in the Lower East Side for 50 years and he told us there has been a lot of changes, that there is a lot less poverty now, but that people are still hurting. He also filled me in on a little history of Tompklns Square Park, how it has seen riots because “people get angry when they don’t have anything to eat”. And a little more research upon this park proves his point. The birthplace of so many political uprisings, what an amazing park.
We met Andrea, a vegetarian travelling from New Orleans. She’s trying to go vegan and the guy she’s staying with is vegan so she thinks she’ll be able to do it. She took some of the new Evolve for Animals leaflets.
We met Cassandra, she lives nearby and happened to stumble across us. She loved the chili and will be coming back next week to get more. She thanked us profusely for being out here.
If I learned something this Saturday is that our model has already been outgrown. Until we find a kitchen where we can prepare three times, four times as much food, we will not be able to spread out as much as I had anticipated and our service will be this localized and specific and limited. I continue sending proposals to fund a space, as well as reaching out to churches and community centers in Manhattan to see if they would allow us to use their kitchens. Something is bound to materialize eventually. All I know is that I stumbled upon this need, and it has transformed into my calling. I cannot ignore it, and I am obsessively trying to improve it and grow it, all in the service of the community and while being compassionate to animals, the environment, and people.
This week’s distribution was made possible by contributions from Ruth Allison and Mark Meunier and by on the spot donations and amazing volunteer work of our Veganteers: Julianna, Grace, Melissa, Hannah, Anthony, Audrey, Nick, Alyssa, Jamison, Candace, Sebastian, Dave, Christopher, Bear, Ollie, and Ivan.
We are making a difference in the lives of people! 200 people this week!
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: