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!
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 email@example.com. Like their Facebook page, found here and share it with friends! For a just, compassionate world for ALL!
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.
We would like to introduce to you our new Volunteer Coordinator, Julianna Calvaruso. She is a high school student, on her Senior year from Brooklyn. She is vegan, and serves as Vice-President of The Student Advocates for Animal Rights at Edward R. Murrow High School. She does vegan outreach with Mercy for Animals and has spent some time volunteering at animal shelters. She is loves vegan desserts, animals, and movies. We are very excited to have her on board.
If you would like to volunteer, or get in touch with Julianna, please send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome Julianna and thank you for joining us! We know your help will be invaluable in our quest to dish out compassion!