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- Numbers, People, Pictures

Tyrone
Tyrone

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.

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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.

Bear, Christopher, and Ollie scout the park.
Bear, Christopher, and Ollie scout the park.
Bear gives out chili and water at the table-
Bear gives out chili and water at the table-
Ollie distributes water-
Ollie distributes water- **Photo by Laura Kolbe Dotterer**

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.

Grace- Senior from Ed Murrow- Chilis on Wheels Team Leader- distributing chili
Grace- Senior from Ed Murrow- Chilis on Wheels Team Leader- distributing chili **Photo by Laura Kolbe Dotterer**

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.

Kind woman making a donation-
Kind woman making a donation- we mostly depend on individual donations and are super grateful to our donors! **Photo by Laura Kolbe Dotterer**

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!)**

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John and Ed
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We added a bed of rice in order to stretch out our portions
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Distributing chili
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Chili
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We feed the entire family- vegan chili and vegan dog food
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Grace and Melissa- teenagers from Ed Murrow High School take a break after a chili run
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Distributing
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Tony shared thoughts on chili in differents parts of the world
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Antwon who just got back from Philadelphia
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In between crowds
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Chilis on Wheels Drive thru
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Fun in the community
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Ollie distributes
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Anthony distributes
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Julianna distributes
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.
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.
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Bye
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Ollie had some vegan chocolate ice cream!
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Grace
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At the table
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Tyrone
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Giving out the napkins
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Veganteers
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John and Ed
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We are done for the week. See you next time!
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..
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Ollie helps tie up the carts with the bungee chords
Chilis on Wheels- Help us dish out compassion! Donate today.
Chilis on Wheels- Help us dish out compassion! Donate today.

 

Unmatched Saturday Distribution! 200 people served!

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.

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The crowd having us barely make it into the sidewalk.
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The crowd.
Making a line.
Making a line.

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.

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Stephanie, who helped us manage the crowd. Thank you so much! You were amazing!

 

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.

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Making vegan sandwiches and bagels
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New Veganteers- Jamison and Candace
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Giving out bagels
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Distributing vegan meals
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Bear and Ollie take a snack break after distributing bananas and scouting the park for people to come get their meals.

 

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Edward Murrow Student Advocates for Animal Rights gals! (and Audrey)

 

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.

Israel- who gave me a history on Tompkins Square Park: "People get angry when they don't have something to eat."
Israel- who gave me a history on Tompkins Square Park: “People get angry when they don’t have something to eat.”

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.

Andrea- transitioning to veganism.
Andrea- transitioning to veganism.

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.

Cassandra-
Cassandra-

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!

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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Saturday Distribution- May2nd (with lots of pictures!)

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.

Zipcar filled with chili on our way to the city
Zipcar filled with chili on our way to the city

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.

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Christine
Christine
John
John
Lucky the rescue dog with his family
Lucky the rescue dog with his family

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.

 

Julianna and Dean
Julianna and Dean

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

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.

Our lovely volunteers! Hilda, Leia, Ollie, Sammie, Ruth, Brianna, Grace In front: Michelle and Julianna
Our lovely volunteers!
Hilda, Leia, Ollie, Sammie, Ruth, Brianna, Grace
In front: Michelle and Julianna
Kid Volunteers: Leia, Ollie, and Sammie
Kid Volunteers:
Leia, Ollie, and Sammie

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!

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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