It all started with 35 meals
On October 22, 1982, Holy Apostles opened its doors and served 35 meals to our unhoused neighbors in need. Forty years later, what started as a community soup kitchen has evolved into a beacon of hope that inspires the best in the people of New York City.
Subscribe to receive the latest news, events, volunteer opportunities, and more — right to your inbox.
Forty years ago, when Holy Apostles started its trademark soup kitchen meal service, we hoped it would be a temporary solution to a temporary problem. At the time, we could not know how hunger and homelessness would persist in New York City.
Whether you’ve been part of our movement for forty years or you just joined us this month, you have helped care for our community, and provide life-changing support to New Yorkers with few places to turn for nourishment of both the body and the soul.
Despite a fire, hurricanes, a global pandemic, and countless other emergency situations, people just like you showed up to help. Whether it be through your volunteerism, your financial contributions, or your championing of the cause, it is because of you that we have never missed a day of meal service in this 40-year history.
Thank you for standing with us in service,
The Rev. Dr. Anna S. Pearson
Executive Director, Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen
Join us in ensuring that we never have to turn anyone away without a meal.
Because of you, for as long as we’re needed, Holy Apostles will continue to be here to nourish our neighbors. $5 = 10 meals for those in need.
It all started with just 35 meals in 1982. Watch this short video to walk through the past 40 years at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.
1982: The Soup Kitchen’s
On October 22, 1982, the Reverend Rand Frew, soup kitchen founder and Rector of the Church of the Holy Apostles, worked alongside parishioners in opening the soup kitchen’s doors and serving 35 meals.
“Holy Apostles itself was at a hub for homeless populations at Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, 14th Street, and the park directly across from the church,” he recalls.
Within the first two months, under Father Frew and the first project director Margaret Green, and with the help of a few volunteers and parishioners, close to 500 hungry and homeless New Yorkers were lining up every weekday morning for a hot meal.
In 1984, Father Frew was able to pass the pastoral and missionary reins securely over to the Rev. Dr. William Greenlaw, the second Holy Apostles Rector to lead the soup kitchen.
We’re where we’re supposed to be, and we’re going to feed people one good meal every weekday, no questions asked, no one turned away.”
The 1990 Fire
With crisis comes opportunity
On an April night in 1990, a catastrophic fire swept through the roof of the church, gutting the historic landmark sanctuary. Staff and volunteers showed up the next day to serve meals at the soup kitchen, and to begin rebuilding.
As the congregation assessed the burnt-out church, building plans took a revolutionary turn – the parish decided repairs would not include pews, allowing the church to be used a giant dining room to accommodate more soup kitchen diners.
The sanctuary was rebuilt as a worship space that had the flooring, walls, and paint sturdy enough to withstand a daily meal service for 1,000. Staying within Historic Landmark Commissions guidelines, it would become, according to Father Greenlaw, “for the… underserved and homeless, who need a place of beauty, hope, and inspiration.”
“We went for a month without a kitchen… every day the guys would go down to St. Columba’s Roman Catholic Church to cook pasta, and every day they would take these big barrels and they would wheel the pasta back. Then they would throw everything else in there, the tuna and the vegetables, and then they would mix it all up and serve it.”
Janet Gracey, Associate Director (1991-2010)
New Life, and Programs, at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen
In 1994, after repairs were completed, the rededication of Holy Apostles seemed to breathe new life into the community.
Volunteer and award-winning author and journalist Ian Frazier would launch the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen Writers’ Workshop. On its tenth year Mother Liz Maxwell, writer Susan Shapiro, and Ian Frazier would publish the book Food for the Soul: Selections from the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen Writers’ Workshop.
The addition of the Writers’ Workshop was just one of several expansions meant to provide emotional and practical resources that supported soup kitchen guests on their path to stability. Mother Liz, galvanizing soup kitchen volunteers and donors, started a social services department to create outlets for expression and open new possibilities for guests to sustain themselves.
A Tragic Turn of the Century at Holy Apostles
By the turn of the century, the soup kitchen had become a reliable source of comfort for New York’s most vulnerable citizens. No time may have been more significant to have its doors open than on the morning of September 11th, 2001.
“I was there on 9/11,” recalls Janet Gracey. “The volunteers, most of them were already there. And a lot of the volunteers had people who worked in that area, and there was pretty much hysteria. The soup kitchen guests were upset, people were crying and going out in the street to watch it burn… later on in the day… folks started walking by covered with ashes… we served all that time.”
The lines continued to form after the terrorist attacks, through wartime and spiking veteran homelessness, an economic boom, and in 2008, a housing crash that caused this country’s Great Recession.
A Changing World, An Evolving Holy Apostles
In 2009, the Reverend Glenn Chalmers was called to lead Holy Apostles through the troubling times of the Great Recession. He worked with Michael Ottley, the Director of Operations, who brought a commitment to food sustainability and fresh ingredients to the soup kitchen’s menu.
Under their leadership, the soup kitchen was able to stay open in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy, serving meals by candlelight while the city was without power. They also launched a computer lab with teachers Ryan Platt and Larry Williams, helping guests learn critical skills, access jobs, and cross the digital divide.
While Michael worked on creating high quality foods, Volunteer Manager Brooke Wiese created a sustaining, daily musical force, turning the soup kitchen into an atmosphere of elegance and dignity that was featured in Michael Wilson’s New York Times piece, “At a Manhattan Soup Kitchen, Food on the Table and Chops on the Piano.”
Volunteers are the heart of our whole operation.
In 40 years, people from all over the world have volunteered over 580,000 times at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. Join us today in our Tradition of Service.
Our Recent Past and Present
In 2016, the Right Reverend Andrew St. John joined Holy Apostles as Interim Executive Director, guiding the soup kitchen and congregation through its search for its new Rector and Executive Director.
In 2018, they welcomed the Rev. Dr. Anna S. Pearson, who shepherded the soup kitchen and parish through the global COVID-19 pandemic, its subsequent economic fallout, and a hunger crisis unlike any the city has experienced in the soup kitchen’s history.
With the help of dedicated volunteers and donors, Holy Apostles transitioned its daily meal service to an outdoor “grab-and-go” hot meal distribution, launched a large-scale food pantry, and began hand-delivering breakfast sandwiches and bagged lunches to New Yorkers living on the streets.
Just like the fire of 1990 permanently changed the form of our programs, the COVID-19 pandemic has done the same. In addition to the thousands of New Yorkers who rely on our daily meal service for a consistent meal, thousands of families now visit our food pantry each week so they can make ends meet at home.
We remain committed to our tradition of radical hospitality, where all are welcome to gather for food, fellowship, and more, and we need you with us as we create this future together. Please join us today.
Join our Fast-a-Thon Fundraiser
Another great way to volunteer with Holy Apostles is through our annual Thanksgiving Fast-a-Thon. On November 17th, our volunteer fundraisers will eat just one meal in solidarity with our guests who often eat their only meal of the day at the Soup Kitchen. Leading up to the 17th, volunteers will reach out to their community to ask them to donate and support their fast. Join us! If you’d prefer to make a one-time donation to the soup kitchen, click here.