When I was 15 years old I ran away to New York City with my boyfriend. I ran away from an abusive stepfather. I thought that I could do better on my own. Right off the train we were ripped off for all $40 of our money. We were alone and broke in the scariest city on earth.
It was a time when crack had taken over and there were shady people lurking around every corner looking for a nice young runaway like myself. Growing up in upstate New York I hadn’t seen or known a lot about homelessness. Over the next several days and nights on the streets I took notice. There were people who were hungry and homeless everywhere. They stuck together and helped to look out and helped feed us. There were soup trucks and kitchens all over. That experience changed my life forever.
I ended up going back home and then moved to Georgia a year later. After moving out on my own at 17 I began to understand how much everything cost and how hard life could be.
After a series of horrible low-paying jobs I found a job at the Gold Club as a waitress. I made a lot of money and I realized how much easier things were when you didn’t have to worry about the basic needs. I would go buy an extra burger and walk up to someone in need and ask if they were hungry. There was so much pride in their eyes but you could tell they were hungry.
On Thanksgiving Day 1994 I went to Kroger and bought a complete Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings. I went home and made separate meals and then walked down Ponce De Leon and handed them out. The folks that I met that first big day I will always remember. Instead of being angry that they were homeless they were so grateful to be alive.
In 1997 I formally started my own charity called Grateful Bread. Twice a week I would prepare all of the drinks and meals and take them to three or four parks to hand them out. I made sandwiches, egg rolls, spaghetti, burritos and soups. We even took requests. Sloppy Joe’s were all-time favorites. I wanted to write a book from their perspective. Soon the need outweighed the book idea and we became mostly about feeding.
My dog at the time was 12 and I swear it added years to her life. She lived to be 18. We grew to love and respect these men, woman and children. We tried to be their voice against cruelty and police harassment. We threw them summer picnics, food drives, clothing and blanket drives. For Christmas we would fill shoe boxes with toiletries, hats and warm socks. We would wrap each one so they would have something to open Christmas morning. One year I hand made 50 pillows to include in the boxes.
Over the next few years we were able to provide well over 20,000 meals. Not bad with help from my husband, family, friends and one super cool dog. Since all of the meals were made at home we were able to feed two people on $1. I am not trying to brag, I just want to let people know that they can make a difference. We had a man come up to us that we honestly didn’t remember. He told us that we were the reason that he was no longer homeless. He then gave me $5 to help feed others.
We can all do something to help.
Find your passion, it may not always be easy but in the end it is always worth it.
Asheville North Carolina
*Kelly submitted her story last month and was chosen to be Mothers Fighting For Others guest writer for the month. Kelly can be contacted by clicking HERE. Thank you Kelly for your passion.