Being one of the first interns to work on the Sunday Breakfast Farm was a joyful experience for Overcomer Greg. He shares his experience and a bit of his story in the video above – Grow Food Where You Live – filmed by Natasha Cohen-Carroll through Asian Arts Initiative.
In the rain or in sunny weather, Greg said he found himself working alongside local artist and urban farmer Meei Ling Ng, who spearheaded the farm effort with AAI more than a year ago.
“Plants need to be maintained, brought along – they need to be pruned so they can grow … it’s just like us,” Greg said. “Down the line, it turns into something beautiful, and into something someone can get something from.”
“After all this destruction,” Greg continues, “I did in my life to myself, I get some joy out of this. I can see something grow and put a smile one someone’s face.”
Overcomer Greg, and other Overcomers in the program, have learned the basics of farming under Meei Ling. She has taught them everything from planting seeds to cultivating and harvesting produce, much of which was brought to the plates of the homeless men and women the Mission serves.
Meei Ling began working with the Overcomers, staff, and volunteers at the Mission and volunteers from the local community in February 2015. Together they set up a farm and art installation in the Mission’s parking lot along Vine Street. Since it launched last winter, the Farm has become a venue for food education, food production, and community building.
“What inspired me to do this … Sunday Breakfast Farm was to use my art to draw attention about food insecurity,” Meei Ling says in the video. “Growing food where you live is part of the solution.”
The farm has provided approximately one ton of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers that have been used in the Sunday Breakfast kitchen, distributed to members of the community, and sold at local farmers markets to benefit the Farm.
In preparation for the 2016 farming season, Meei Ling is working closely with a group of apprentice’s from the Mission and teaching them how to maintain the Farm. In addition to the apprentices, the farm is also dependent on dedicated volunteers that lend a helping hand.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the Sunday Breakfast Farm contact the Mission’s volunteer coordinator at email@example.com. You can also support projects like the Farm by donating funds because these projects are made possible through donations. Your support helps educate homeless men and women about healthy, sustainable eating, that can have a positive impact on their lives for years to come!
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!
Riding on the train to come to volunteer at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission in the early spring, I see the promise of new life everywhere. There are tiny buds on the trees, the daffodils are blooming with bright splashes of color, and birds are nesting.
That new life is evident here at the Mission too, but it lasts all year long. Dedicated staff members work with strength and gentleness to bring that promise into the lives of people who have had many harsh disappointments in their lives. For these people, all hope in anything has been crushed out of them. They exist, but don’t live.
Over the past nine years, my husband and I have spent one day each week here. In that time, I have watched the warmth and color come back into the lives of men who have passed through the Mission. It begins when a man eats a good meal and has a safe and comfortable night’s sleep. It continues when a man listens to and grabs hold of the Word of God.
Life without a dependable food source, without fresh clothing, safety or protection from the elements is frightening and exhausting. It steals from the mind as well as the body. New life is evident in the relaxation that comes from getting off the street and feeling secure. It is evident when eyes are able to meet the gaze of another person; in handshakes and fist bumps. Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission has been a lighthouse for the homeless in Philadelphia. I am continually amazed at the absolutely tireless efforts of so many fine, caring people to comfort those in need.
The men that come through the doors have widely differing backgrounds. Some of the men are veterans; some are college educated; some have been in jail; some have a long history of deprivation; some are addicted to alcohol or drugs. The staff works personally with each, whatever their need, to help them become healthy and self-sufficient.
But what has to happen first, and this is truly difficult, is that the person has to recognize that help is needed and to reach out for it. Reaching out involves being vulnerable and having a small amount of trust. New trust is delicate and must be carefully nurtured. The Sunday Breakfast staff is so good at doing just that!
Listening to the Word of God strengthens this fledgling trust. Hearing that forgiveness is available for all our sins fortifies each of us. It is only with trust that we can submit ourselves to the loving arms of Jesus Christ. That love, stronger than even a mother’s love, can lift us up out of a lifetime of hurt and ruinous choices.
It is here that new life begins. Suddenly, as in late spring when the trees burst into leaves and the sun is so warm, there is hope for a future that is vastly different than the past.
As the men enter the Overcomer’s program at the Mission, they find a community of faith to support the new journey being traveled. Life’s needs such as food, clothing, and safe shelter, are provided. The men can become physically healthy while their faith in God, and themselves, grows stronger.
Being even a very tiny part of what happens at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission is such a privilege. The whole transformation starts with unknown, kind people supporting this work. It ends with a healthy man, strong in faith, going out into the world to make it a better place.
What an amazing gift!
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!
Around this time a few years ago, I was having lunch with a friend and venting how flustered I was that Christmas was around the corner and I had not even begun all the shopping I needed to get done, which would of course put me out hundreds of dollars. Later, on my way home that day I was walking past a Dunkin Donuts when a homeless man approached me and asked me if I could buy him some coffee. I happily agreed and went into the Dunkin Donuts where I bought the man a coffee and a meal. While this is something I commonly do when asked by someone in need, it was the man’s appreciation that got to me. He was profusely thankful and showered me in God-blesses and kind words.
This was also the same day that I realized how buying that four dollar meal was as rewarding – if not more so – than any one Christmas gift I gave that year.
Charity and giving to those is need has always been imperative to me. I am human and yes, I want materialistic things, but I am also very aware of my good fortunes and even more aware that not everyone has the opportunities that I do. When I found Sunday Breakfast (SB) in hopes of volunteering for dinner service, I never knew how much the shelter would impact my life and how involved I would become.
While the Mission is home to a few rescues including a women and children’s facility, I personally have involved myself in the men’s rescue located at 13th and Vine Street in Center City, Philadelphia. This facility provides nightly housing (and meals) for over 200 men and is also the home for the members of the Overcomers Program. This program is designed to take men off of the street and uses tools like scheduling, education, and internships to help them rebuild their lives and move back into working society. It is the men in this program that have displayed what real strength and courage is.
My relationship with SB has been insightful and humbling. I have learned so much about the homeless community and have even been fortunate enough to learn the stories of some of the men. These stories really opened my eyes to the world of the homeless. These are not just people begging you for money on the street. They are real human beings with lives and families and stories – just like the rest of us.
Meeting the groups of men within the Overcomers program over the past few years has only fueled my passion in helping them. I have first hand seen how much a program like this has changed the lives of these individuals and I am determined to spread their cause.
There are many ways that you can give to the SB family; whether it’s volunteering at their kitchen during dinner service, or making a donation to the organization. However, nothing helps the rescue more than contributing to their Fall Food Drive. The Food Drive allows the shelter to serve an all-day Thanksgiving to the homeless community of Philadelphia and in true Thanksgiving fashion – even allows the community to get seconds. Along with canned goods, the men’s shelter is in need of practical items such as socks, underwear, warm clothing, and sneakers.
If you currently live in Philadelphia and want to help collect these goods for the Fall Food Drive, round up your belongings and drop them off at 302 N 13th St. Philadelphia, PA 19107. You can also call the rescue to schedule a delivery at 215-922-6400.
If you are interested in donating to Sunday Breakfast or have any questions about how you can help, feel free to email the volunteer coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All content in this post was written by Rachel in Flight.
By this time of year, we have all drank, baked, and otherwise eaten enough pumpkin spice flavored goodies to last us the whole year through. But as we light cinnamon flavored candles, the homeless in Philadelphia should not be forgotten. This year Sunday Breakfast is hosting our most ambitious Thanksgiving to-date. Instead of doing a more traditional cafeteria style meal, we will be having an All Day Thanksgiving Meal!
Volunteers will transform themselves into waiters for a day and deliver the food to the tables for a restaurant style experience for the homeless men and women. Over sixty volunteers have been scheduled and are ready to get to work on the big day.
In 2013 alone, the much smaller Thanksgiving Meal served 557 individuals. This year, the All Day Thanksgiving will care for more people than ever before. It will be served to homeless men and women with a true family experience. Not only that but serving time has doubled to a four hour block from noon to four with seconds included.
At my family’s thanksgiving, no one would bat an eyelash at someone reaching for another of my grandmother’s famous rolls. In fact, we would probably think you were coming down with something if you didn’t. To promote this family atmosphere, those who attend will be allowed to receive seconds if they desire it.
The kitchen is gearing up for the big day with impressive precision. Although many donations are expected to arrive within the next few weeks, we are currently behind schedule because of the size of our planned Thanksgiving. Despite this fact, we will not be decreasing our plans by one sweet potato because the homeless men and women in our community are already planning on attending.
Traditionally 80% of the year’s non-perishable food donations are given during the Fall Food Drive. This is why November is most definitely our month of thankfulness because we are very thankful for the support of those who partner with Sunday Breakfast to make this impressive Food Drive possible.
You see, the Fall Food Drive is for more than Thanksgiving, it is an investment in the rest of our year. It is because of the Fall Food Drive donations that we are able to serve three warm meals every day of the year. On average the Mission provides meals for 600 men each day. The Mission’s services go beyond food as more than 200 men find shelter each night.
If you have not contributed to the Fall Food Drive, please consider donating anything from the smallest can to the largest turkey to make this Thanksgiving Meal possible.