I have come to realize that service doesn’t have to be complicated or take lots of planning. If you love people and desire to help them, that’s really all it takes. Service is something we can make part of our daily life, and it’s also a fun way to make others feel special. Here are five simple (and impactful) ways you can serve the homeless community all year long!
1) Carry Granola Bars: Keeping granola bars in your car, in your purse, or work bag as you walk the streets of Philadelphia is a manageable way to help those in need. Philadelphia has an estimated 4,000 homeless individuals throughout the city. Many feel alone and hungry. Giving granola bars to those less fortunate is an easy way to meet an immediate need.
2) Volunteer: Volunteering at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission is a great way to give back! Every day, I’m excited about all the ways I can personally lend a helping hand, like serving meals, and I hope you will join me this year. At the Mission meals are served three times a day, 365 days a year. It’s easy to sign up on the Sunday Breakfast website or contact the volunteer coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you want to help feed empty bellies during the cold winter months or throughout the year.
3) Pray: Prayer is a powerful tool to ignite change, in your life, and in the lives of others. Because of prayer, many of our chaplains see first-hand how God is transforming the lives of the homeless men in our Overcomer Program. A simple way to make a difference in the lives of our homeless neighbors is praying for them. You can pray for the homeless men and women you see walking the streets before bed at night, or gather with your church family to pray for homeless individuals being sheltered at Sunday Breakfast!
4) Clean Out Your Closet: Cleaning out that closet is an easy way to give back, although it may not seem like a simple task. Donating items that are in good condition, but you rarely wear, can really go a long way. Every few months sort through items that may fit that category, give them a wash, and toss them into a plastic bag and donate them. At the Mission, we’re really in need of boots and other winter clothing. Every little bit helps and they truly bless the homeless brothers and sisters the Mission serves.
5) Donate: Supporting the Mission financially is really the simplest way to make a difference. Giving within your means, no matter the amount, can change the lives that are touched daily at the Mission. One meal at the Mission only costs $1.95. That’s it! A $20 donation can feed approximately 10 of our guests and a $50 donation can feed an estimated 25 guests. To learn more about how to partner with Sunday Breakfast financially visit www.sundaybreakfast.org/donate!
A few days ago, Overcomer Thomas came up to me and said, “I have bad news.” My hands shot up to my mouth while my mind rushed with potential catastrophes: death in the family, fellow Overcomer relapse, Garfield the Cat is lost. “I am leaving the program,” he continues. My mind is running at triple speed: did he relapse, did he get in a fight, is he in trouble? “I am moving into an apartment with my brother.”
To which I respond, “Why did you scare me like that!? This is good news! Nothing but good news.” Whenever someone finds a place to go, it is always good news. But in that moment (and even now) I have two distinct and contradictory emotions: joy and loss. I am joyful that Thomas has found a place to stay and that he can escape from the cycle of homelessness. But I am also mourning the loss of a friend who I have gotten to know over the last few months.
After talking with Thomas, I was reminded of the Disney movie Lilo and Stich. It is about an adorable space alien, Stich, who learns to love and be loved after being accepted into a human family. I know, it sounds cheesy but this movie deals with the very hard topics of family and adoption. My favorite line is when the little girl explains to Stitch what the Hawaiian word for family means: “Ohana means family, family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” It is such a simple concept that we often take for granted. Family (biological or intentional) needs to stick together no matter the circumstances.
If everyone looked at family in this light then homelessness would be a much smaller problem. Thomas is able to leave homelessness behind because someone was willing to make sure he was not “left behind or forgotten.” I hope that more people reconnect with their loved ones. The first line of defense against homelessness is family and friends.
Every family is different so please do not thing that I am oversimplifying this problem. There are always dozens of layers of baggage that need to be worked through and sometimes there just isn’t an answer. But the fact still remains, the love of families can prevent homelessness before it starts.
At Sunday Breakfast, we encourage men and women to reconnect with their families through technology. Facebook is actually an amazing way to find loved ones in order to open the lines of communication. Thomas used the Learning Center computers to get back in touch with his brother and now he is going home!
Families can prevent homelessness! Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission is family and friends to countless homeless men and women who don’t have the option of going home. You can help more men and women reconnect with their biological family or create a new intentional family by supporting the programs at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission. “Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” Let’s be “family” for as many people as possible!
For the past few weeks, every day has been Earth Day at the Mission as the Overcomers work hard on the urban farm growing in our parking lot. As you may know, it is difficult to find “green space” in Center City Philadelphia. Since
we do not have a traditional yard, our Farm is being built from the proverbial concrete up using recycled pallets.
The men in our Overcomer Program participate in weekly Skills Training classes that change throughout the year. For this spring and summer, the men are learning about building, growing, and tending a garden through the Grow Food Where You Live class hosted by the Asian Arts Initiative. Resident artist and farmer Meei Ling Ng is working closely with the men in our Overcomer program to teach them valuable skills about farming.
When a man graduates from the Overcomer Program, he should be as marketable as possible for any job he wishes to pursue. This is why everyone graduates with Serve Safe certification, a completed GED, and has a written resume. This Farm is another way to help the men gain more skills to help them further their careers. Regardless of what career path they choose to follow, these skills are valuable for when they someday own or rent their own home with their very own yard.
Therapy & Recovery
Working outside with plants has been proven to have therapeutic benefits for people in difficult situations. Horticultural Therapy can be used to rehabilitate prisoners, decrease the stresses of mental illness, or as a means of addiction recovery. The act of taking care of something so fragile and then seeing it grow into something useful is powerful and meaningful for people working towards leaving homelessness behind. Not to mention that it is an excuse to get outside and soak in some much needed vitamin D after the winter!
One Overcomer, Kisean, in particular has become very invested in this project. He was the first to volunteer to water the seedlings while they were growing inside. Now that “his babies” are outside, he checks on them regularly. He did not like to thin his plants (removing a weaker sprout which is growing too close to a stronger sprout) because he felt like he was abandoning the weaker plant. Kisean is compassionate and this project gives him the opportunity to see something thrive under his care.
The greater China Town North community has seen the value of this farm and has been very supportive as we build and plant. Through this engagement, our neighbors have had the opportunity to work with the Overcomers as partners and equals.
A few weeks ago, a quiet Overcomer, Nick, began coming out of his shell when he was assigned to be a Team Leader that would oversee the building of a pallet planter. To my surprise and joy, I saw Nick step up in this leadership role as his team finished their planter fastest and sturdily. Since then, he has been slowly coming out of his shell and continues to participate in classes.
But what do we plan on doing with all the food? Eat it, of course! The kitchen is looking forward to using these fresh ingredients to improve the quality of the meals we serve at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission. With almost 600 meals served each day, these plants will be a valuable resource for the homeless community. We intend to improve the health benefits of our breakfast because it is “the most important meal of the day.” As the only provider of free “all welcome” breakfast in Philadelphia, it is essential that this meal be fresh and vitamin rich!
How You Can Help
If you would like to be involved in the next Community Build Day then email email@example.com and ask to be added to the Farm Project email list. You could also help improve the quality of food served by donating money and specifying that it is for “Better Breakfast” which means it will be designated for protein or vitamin rich foods served at the Mission. You can improve the quality of life for your homeless neighbors, today!
More often than you would expect, when guests at the Mission hear that I am “a writer” their expression changes as they explain that they too like to write. Honestly, it is more accurate to describe myself as “a reader” because I genuinely enjoy reading so much more than I enjoy writing. So when I have the opportunity to read someone else’s work then I get very excited about it. Reading is a way to enter someone’s life and see through their eyes.
Despite all the negative surroundings, these homeless writers feel the human need to express themselves. This makes me feel closer to these individuals because it is a basic human desire. The desire to be understood. Don’t we all want to be known by those around us? Not just seen or acknowledged but actually known? This is why these men and women save room in their bags for a composition notebook and a pencil. Because being understood is beautiful.
Maybe this is why people share with me when they hear me called a writer. Maybe they think that I understand this yearning to be heard and known. Because I do understand it. The only difference is that I have countless outlets for my personal voice while they only have their notebook.
So in order to give a fellow writer an opportunity to be known by you, I am handing off this blog post to my friend and Overcomer, William. I did not give him the topic or edit his work. See life through his eyes and get to know him!
By William B.
Now I’m here at Sunday Breakfast- though
I thought I’d never be
In such a situation life got so so
Hard you see.
Because of my wrong actions I have
I took people for granted lots of
Problems that would bring
But right here at the Mission the
Lord has touched my soul
And things are getting better since
I let God take control,
I am an Overcomer not just a
So you can learn what I found out
And truly feel the same.
Sunday Breakfast is a blessing
That has truly changed my path,
Now my life has a new direction
I won’t have to face God’s wrath.
Yes, I was a sinner. I was living in my sin.
Who would have thought that I’d be
Saved and somehow I would win.
I’ll continue on this mission and
Always always care,
I will pass on what I’ve learned here
And with all my love I’ll share.
I fall under the third category. Despite a hatred of the cold: I love the snow. It is beautiful and (even though people are terrible drivers) magical. But there is no “snow day” from being homeless. People don’t get to leave work early from homelessness.
At Sunday Breakfast, we try to make life a little easier for homeless men, women, and children in Philadelphia. Our Day Room is packed with men and women who are just looking for a warm place to spend the day. As an added touch of home: we are serving hot & hearty soup for lunch just like mothers everywhere on Snow Days. Later today we will even be projecting a movie on a wall of the Day Room. Who doesn’t love to stay in on a snowy evening and watch a movie?
As much as I love talking about snow (and trust me: I do), I have always been able to choose to come inside when my the tips of my fingers went numb. This is why, I want to share a poem with you by a member of our Overcomer program who has a passion for the written word. David Harlem is very imaginative kindhearted soul. So today, I leave you with a poem about the chill of winter from a formerly homeless and extremely creative individual.
Blue Norther David Harlem
thunders across the prairie
sharp as buffalo hooves;
hard as betrayal.
a defiant head;
tall grass bows
Father North Wind
satisfaction in his grim grey eyes.
has broken its treaty.