Voices Newsletter–Special 35th Anniversary Edition

01.10.18 | Food for the Soul, News & Events

Voice of a Guest … Lawrence


It has been a long road from addiction and homelessness to health and housing for soup kitchen guest, Lawrence. And for this 53 year old, Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen has been a source of nourishment and hope throughout his courageous journey.

I was homeless for about 20 years, in and out of shelters,” he says, recalling his first meals at the soup kitchen in 1988. At first, the soup kitchen was simply a means of basic survival. “I was getting a decent meal every day. Sometimes, when people are homeless, they don’t know the different services that are available, to get the help they need, especially with nutrition.

Nourished by those early meals, Lawrence finally summoned the courage to ask for help from our social services counselors. “I got a referral to a detox program,” he recalls, saying that at that point, “I started getting my mind and body right.”

For Lawrence, getting clean and sober wasn’t as easy as one trip to detox. “It took me many years because sometimes when you’re out on the street you can lose your mind,” he explains.

Through the years, the soup kitchen was always here when he was hungry and simply needed a hot meal. And as his periods of sobriety lasted longer, Lawrence knew he had to get off the streets to stay clean. Seeking help again from our counselors, he was first referred to the YMCA shelter where he stayed for three years. In 2010, he moved to a transitional housing program. And, finally, with consistent sobriety, he obtained permanent section 8 housing in 2012 and has lived in the same apartment since.

“Mental health has brought me back to society,” Lawrence declares, remembering one soup kitchen counselor who was always there for him with encouragement, referrals to health services, and even clothes when he was in the most need. Looking back on his toughest years he remembers how she handled all kinds of issues “with kindness and authority.”

A native New Yorker, Lawrence’s extended family moved to rural Pennsylvania when he was a young adult. But he never wanted to leave the city where he calls home. “I’m very social,” he says. “I love the city.” Sadly, many of the people Lawrence has known over the years are not clean and sober, and he has to keep his distance. “So that’s hard,” he admits. “It becomes very lonely.”

With limited means, Lawrence still relies on the soup kitchen for what he needed the first day he walked through our doors: a healthy, filling meal. And sitting down to eat, he finds food for his soul too, a connection with old and new friends.

“People crave a decent conversation,” he says, adding that eating meals at the soup kitchen is one way he protects his sobriety. “When you come here, no one is drinking or using drugs. They’re eating and socializing, so you can talk to them.”

Looking toward his future, Lawrence is now considering joining the writers’ workshop. “I’d like to be a novelist,” he declares, with hope in his voice. “And write stories.”

VOICE of … Soup Kitchen Founder, Father Rand Frew

FrewThe foundation that Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen stands today could not have endured the test of time without the vision and leadership of its founder, Father Rand Frew. Since his tenure, Fr. Frew’s ministry has expanded globally, earning commendation by world leaders who cite his work at Holy Apostles.

Holy Apostles is a social justice parish,” Frew says, recalling a long history of activism. “It’s a place that takes risks.

That history made for a natural match with the 31 year old priest in 1978. A Nevada native, Fr. Frew came to Holy Apostles with a vision of a parish soup kitchen he had seen in Atlanta, Georgia. He recalls introducing the concept for the soup kitchen soon after his arrival. “It had vestry support right away. No question.

In the late 1970s things were rough in New York City. “Holy Apostles itself was a hub for the homeless populations at Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, 14th Street, and the park directly across from the church,” Fr. Frew recalls. These trying times were compounded by a mysterious and deadly new virus, HIV/AIDS . “We’re where we’re supposed to be,” he would declare in response to these challenges. “And we’re going to feed people one good meal every weekday, no questions asked, no one turned away.

The soup kitchen didn’t materialize overnight, nor did he want it to. “I’m a builder and Holy Apostles needed building from a solid foundation of faith and good stewardship. The Chelsea community had to be behind it … I began announcing at every community meeting ‘I’m going to start a soup kitchen at Holy Apostles, and I’ll need your help and support,’ and people came on board.

Much of 1981 was spent doing the research and laying the groundwork. Fundraising began in earnest, together with learning city codes and regulations, buying equipment, and renovating the first floor of The Mission House. “We followed restaurant requirements,” he says. “We opened at those standards, so the foundation was solid from day one.

Within the first two months, the soup kitchen was serving close to 500 meals a day. For Fr. Frew the meal was complete only with nourishment of the soul and the mind and within the first year guests could access “multiple services,” outreach that continues today.

Fr. Frew thanks all who worked with him, those who took up the mantle after his time at Holy Apostles, and chiefly God. While the meals and years can be counted, it’s impossible to quantify the difference Fr. Frew’s vision has made on the quality of life for those who have found nourishment at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. Thank you, Father Rand Frew!

Voice of a Volunteer … Bridget


Chelsea resident Bridget Robinson came to Holy Apostles in 2014 when looking for a place to host her late husband’s memorial service. “I just fell in love with the history of Holy Apostles, and their inclusiveness,” she says. In 2015, she decided to give volunteering a try.

After learning about our social services program, she saw an opportunity to use her years of experience working in human resources and counseling as a volunteer social services counselor. One year later, she teamed up with the computer lab teachers to offer resume and job search coaching.

“The company I worked for downsized tremendously… so I learned to work with people that have been laid off,” she says. “At the soup kitchen, I started doing resumes and then expanded to job preparation. So I try to assist guests with interviewing skills.”

For Bridget, the process is really the same, whether she’s in a corporate environment or here at the soup kitchen. It’s about “getting people to think of themselves in a positive way, to put it on a resume,” she says, recalling one guest who came to her for help. “He was having trouble and we worked on resumes. He secured a position with a very good salary working in security. He came back and he was so proud!

In addition to the many guests she’s met and helped over the past two years, Bridget is also grateful for the other committed volunteers and staff. “It’s been one of the most fantastic experiences I’ve had,” she says.

Hungry for Change?


Our 6th annual Fast-A-Thon, which takes place the week before Thanksgiving, is our way to stand in solidarity with our guests and help raise awareness and much needed funds for the soup kitchen. By pledging to eat just one meal on November 16th, like many of our guests do every day, you can make a difference in the lives of thousands who rely on the soup kitchen for daily nourishment.

It’s easy to sign up as an individual, or as a team with friends or colleagues. When you register, you’ll create a personalized fundraising page that links to our main fundraising goal as well as to your social media accounts so you can educate and inspire others to fight chronic hunger in NYC. If you are unable to fast, you can still support an individual or team effort.

Holy Apostles Associate Executive Director John-Harvard Reid will be again joining this year to raise funds for Fast-A-Thon. “Fast-A-Thon offers a unique opportunity to experience firsthand what surviving on one meal a day feels like and to reach out to family, friends and co-workers to raise awareness, compassion and support for this life sustaining mission,” he says. “Every gift, large or small, helps to feed someone homeless or hungry.”

Voice of a Planned Giver … Rick


2017 was a long way off in 1982 when the soup kitchen opened its doors. Those first few meals came about because of diligent planning ahead of time, along with faith in an unforeseeable future. It is impossible to know what New York will look like 35 years from today, but we do know that hunger and homelessness isn’t going away any time soon. Because of those who are thinking long-term about their planned giving strategies, we can plan on serving emergency meals for years to come. One of these forward-thinking supporters is volunteer Rick Landman who recently wrote to us explaining why he has included Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in his will.

“Having a husband or children was not in my cards, being that I came out as gay in the 1960’s. So when it came to thinking about my beneficiaries of my estate, I turned to the organizations that meant so much to me in my life. They were like ‘children’ to me. Over the years, I watched them grow into entities that have helped so many people. Holy Apostles is one of these ‘grown children.’

I decided to create a will that would liquidate my assets and divide them so that each group will share in my estate to continue their mission. Since I’ve been volunteering at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen every Thursday for over ten years, I directed my Executor to include Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen as one of my beneficiaries. I also am grateful for the many years that Holy Apostles housed my LGBTS Synagogue. It may be uncomfortable to think about these things, but now is the time to get the paperwork in order. May it be a long time before they read my will.”

We’re thankful for all that Rick has done for the soup kitchen, for including us in his plans, and for sharing his story with us. We would love to hear from you about why Holy Apostles is in your planned giving strategy. You can also learn more about including Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in your estate plans by emailing [email protected] or calling (646) 998-6101.

35th Anniversary Party


On October 26th we will be honoring all those who have made the soup kitchen the beacon of hope that it is today. In 2017, just as in 1982, hunger and homelessness continue to jeopardize the safety and health of too many vulnerable New Yorkers. But thankfully, because of the stalwart leadership and support of compassionate individuals over 35 years, countless people have had the hot, nutritious meals and encouragement they needed to survive and even find new life. We hope you can join us for this anniversary celebration to learn more about our history and the stories that we’ve uncovered this year through interviews and archival research. Appetizers, cake and beverages will be served.

Tickets are going fast at $35 and can be purchased here. For more information, call Leona Brown at (646) 998-6115.

Bite Sized

Nutritious Meals to Go


This past May, we extended our meal program beyond the walls of the church with our first Bagged Lunch Program. Now, in addition to serving hot daily meals in our dining room, the soup kitchen prepares and distributes healthy bagged lunches for community members who are unable to attend our regular meal time. Volunteers head to the prep kitchen first thing in the morning to assemble the 150 lunches, which include a sandwich, fruits and veggies, and snacks, that we prepare every day. Our partner, non-profit Hearty Start, then delivers these nutritious, portable meals to our homeless neighbors in Penn Station.

LGBT History at the Church of Holy Apostles


As the soup kitchen celebrates 35 years on the forefront of social justice, we were honored to be included in the LGBT Historic Sites Project, the first initiative to document historic and cultural sites associated with the LGBT community in New York City. In July, project co-directors Jay Shockley and Ken Lustbader visited Holy Apostles for a meeting of the minds with soup kitchen and parish staff, and Father Rand Frew to share information about the church’s rich history as a meeting place for LGBT groups and activists. Visit our page on the LGBT Historic Sites website to learn more.

Food Waste Fair

food waste fair

On July 25th, Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen Staff attended the New York City Food Waste Fair to connect with leaders in food waste reduction, and learn about the newest trends and innovations in NYC. As the largest food emergency program in New York City we know that our commitment to responsible food sustainable practices must continue to grow through partnerships and technology. Upon return to the soup kitchen from the fair, we immediately formed our first “Zero Waste Team” to keep the momentum going in concrete, measurable ways. Stay tuned to learn how we are doing our part in New York City’s “Zero by 30” goal.

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