Exciting Volunteer Opportunities!

Often when people come to volunteer at the center, they don’t know where to start or how they fit in. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities available, including some brand new ones, so let us give you the rundown on some really great programs that we’re working hard on here at the Community Center.

 

The Really Free Closet

Volunteer, Billy, organizing men’s pants on our new hanging racks.

Do you have a flair for fashion? Do you have previous retail experience, or are you a meticulous organizer? If this sounds like you, we need your help! We need a volunteer every day who can keep our donation closet in excellent working order and help people find the right sizes in what they’re looking for. Duties include straightening and sorting donations, organizing clothing into sizes and being able to help people find what they need. We already have a volunteer or two who love to do this, but we have 5 days to fill at 4 hours each, so let alyssa@lovewinscec.org know that you’re interested, and we’ll get you started!

 

Front Desk

Volunteer, Thomas, works the front desk and gives new folks tours of the center.

We have a beautiful, front desk office that is completely under-utilized, it’s intention was to be a welcoming station for guests. Ideally, the volunteer who hangs out in this posh office will greet guests, make sure they sign in, answer the phone, and not be afraid to say “I don’t know the answer to that, let me ask and get right back to you”, then find a staff member. This person will have a set of keys to our hygiene and first aid closets, and be able to get folks needed things out of there like soap, shampoo, toothpaste and band-aids. They’ll be able to let folks know that breakfast is at 9:30 and lunch is at 11:30, as well as being able to point people in the right direction so that they can get their needs met. If anyone would like to take it a step further, bring your laptop and look up directions, phone numbers, etc. to help our folks navigate the world. If you enjoy reception/admin./host opportunities, we need you! Email Alyssa Chamblee at alyssa@lovewinscec.org.

 

Nutrition Program Assistant

Operations Associate, Blu, making pasta for lunch in the church kitchen.

Do you love working in the kitchen? Do you have good knife skills, take direction well and maybe even have a couple of great recipes that you can instantly recall just by looking at what’s available (I know I do), then we need you in the kitchen! We serve breakfast and lunch every day, and sometimes that is more successful with more hands on deck. The person who would enjoy doing this would be someone with a passion for food who lacks the need to be in charge of the kitchen (we have a person for that on staff), though your moment may come if anyone falls ill around here. They will be a person who knows when the pot needs stirring, the griddle needs cleaning, and that you don’t cut chicken on the vegetable board. This person can be of many personality types, from the type of person who loves to follow a recipe to a person who plays “Iron Chef” with things grown in the community garden. If you love to feed people, we have a position (or 2) per day for you! If you’re interested in this position, email Blu Honeycutt at blu@lovewinscec.org and cc alyssa@lovewinscec.org.

 

Events Coordinator/Fundraiser

Flyer from the Love Wins Coat Drive at Bittersweet, organized by fundraising volunteer, Esther.

Are you the type of person who doesn’t have time to come volunteer during the day, but you can organize and throw a great party? Do you know a lot of restaurant owners/DJ’s/local business owners/grant givers? Then we really need you! We have to keep the momentum going and let folks know that we are here and exactly what we do. The person who would like to volunteer in this capacity will have an idea for a fundraiser. They’ll have social connections and a good online social media presence. They’ll know exactly what I’m talking about in this description. You’re a mover and a shaker; you get things done. You create food drives, art shows, benefits, galas, balls, big parties, comedy shows, book bands, maybe you’re just really good at organizing your church into action. Whatever your special skill is, we need you. If you are picking up what I’m laying down, email MaRanda at maranda@lovewinscec.org.

 

Special Skills

Shelving, put together by our volunteer, Chico, for our food pantry.

Do you have a special skill that you would like to use for good? Are you good with computers? Are you a good artist? Are you a resume’ guru? We have 1 art therapist and 1 yoga instructor right now, but we could use more enrichment programs. Bring us your talent and share it with people who may not have the opportunity to participate in what you do typically. Not big on people interaction? We have opportunities for handy folks who are good with any type of trade skill pretty regularly. Prefer one on one interaction? We could use therapists, people with trucks that can help us move big things, carpenters to mend our deck, and people who can help us with getting folks to their appointments on time. If you like your day to be different every day and you have a special skill, we need you!!! Please email Alyssa at alyssa@lovewinscec.org. You are a crafty problem solver, and we could use your help!

Camping enthusiast? Awesome! Do you personally know where to go and how to navigate social programs? We need you so bad!!! Have you been a CNA, a nurse, an EMT professional? We always have questions! Do you want to teach a class in sewing, plumbing, finance, jewelry making, cooking, drawing, music, computer literacy, reading/writing, anything- we would love for you to teach us how to do that, too. Do you love to work in the garden? We have a community garden! There are so many opportunities to contribute; bring us your gifts and give the gift of a second chance for someone who could really use your help. We will hold a space for you, and together, we’ll hold a space for people to be their best selves!

To quote Pastor Hugh, “Nobody  has their best day alone”. Come make someone’s day!

A Meal a Month

Celery, cabbage and corn for vegetable soup, caesar salad makings, bouillion to make future meals tasty and cinnamon for French Toast Friday.

People who listen to NPR know that they have an annual fund drive and ask people to become “sustainers”. This means giving a monthly gift that the organization can count on in order to pay expenses for the programming. I personally give to “Save the Children”, and it’s $20/month that I don’t miss out of my account. My husband is the NPR “Sustainer” in our house, and it makes sense, because we listen to it a lot.

I was thinking about how this relates to the center, and monthly contributions are wonderful because we know how much money is coming in each month. Right now we only have a handful of folks who do it, but at the beginning of every month it makes me smile. Our Sustainers rock! I was thinking of ways to make this more accessible to others- people often feel like they have to give a large sum of money all at once, or they wonder what a good amount would be that wouldn’t hurt them financially.

Now that the center is serving 2 meals a day, 5 days a week, we’re serving 60 or so meals a month! It’s absolutely amazing that we’ve been able to pull it off, but sometimes we need things to fill in the gaps, so I came up with an idea. It’s called “A Meal a Month”.

The idea is that for $20 a month, each individual contributor is essentially supporting a meal every month. One meal for 40-70 people is no small feat, and we can do a LOT with $20! Sometimes we run into things- not enough of any one type of pasta to do anything with, we’re out of cooking oil, we need butter to make grits taste like food, we have an abundance of hotdog buns but no hotdogs, we have 20 lbs. of hummus and need something to put it on. Problems that you’ve probably encountered in your own kitchen around dinner time.  Sometimes you just don’t have two things that match.

I’ve been a crazy, savvy shopper since I was a very young person, so I wanted to make a short example list of things we can do with $20!

Our receipt from Foodlion. This trip supported 3 specific meals this week, plus bouillion to make future meals tasty.

 

Dollar Store run for sausage and disinfectant.

• Morrell Kelbasa is sold for $1 each when I can catch it at our Poole Rd. Dollar Tree. People love it for breakfast or lunch, and 15 of those are PLENTY!

• 15 packs of chicken hotdogs can, in a pinch, serve all of our folks lunch. 20 packs make it so that we can have beanie weanies as a choice later in the week.

• The beans for beanie weanies are $4.50/#10 can at Sam’s Club, sometimes less. I could buy 3 plus enough hotdogs to make it tasty!

 

• Fish Sticks are sold at our (very local) Food Lion for 120/$7.99, it takes 2 to feed the center lunch! We’d have enough left over to buy ketchup too. A quick source of protein in a pinch.

• Saltines are $0.77/box at Food Lion, the perfect companion for that windfall of donated cheese, homemade chicken soup or a big batch of tuna. It takes 1-2 boxes to serve lunch, for only $1.54!

 

We play “Iron Chef” a lot at the center, but we’re proud to be able to serve home cooked meals daily, including fresh soups, chili, pastas and salads that are both healthy and hearty.  We’re proud to be able to offer both a meat and vegetarian option when we can, because choices provide dignity. If you would like to support a meal a month, please click here and, after clicking the donate button, choose the monthly payment option.

Blu’s homemade Snow Day Chili.

For delicious food pictures, like our facebook page. We update daily with center activities, happiness, and tons of homemade meals.

The “Love Wins” Effect

T* was leaning, propped up against our new cabinetry in the conference room, helping me sort some canned goods and organize the new food pantry.

“This was my baby’s first Christmas. Her mother and I went to her family’s house and when I walked inside,” he paused, in a way that I was bracing myself for the rest of his sentence, as if searching for the right words, “everyone was happy to see me.

“People shouted ‘Hey, T!’ when I walked in the door. I’ve never had a Christmas like that. I’ve never been to a Christmas where everyone was happy to see me. My girl even got me this outfit.” He motioned to the fashionable track suit he was wearing. “She didn’t have to do that. I wasn’t expecting anything like that. It was awesome.”

T had been volunteering with us all day. I saw him rolling up socks to pass out in the hall when I first came in. He’d helped us clean up after lunch. He went to service for the first time, saying “I think I really need to hear these words today”. He had the true spirit of Christmas all about him. Just a few days earlier, he had sat, cutting paper snowflakes with Alyssa’s children in the same conference room to paste to all of the goody bags we were handing out to community members as a little bit of holiday cheer.

Earlier, on this same day, our friend, Boomer* had gotten a phone call from his niece who really needed him to come home and help her out, as she had recently become disabled with mobility issues. Boomer had only been with us for about a month, but in that time he had volunteered daily, washing dishes, helping us close the center, and singing for us during church service. He has a beautiful voice.

We were more than happy to get Boomer a ticket back to Houston, back to a family and a home. When we get to do that, it’s a big win for us. One more person has found their way indoors with people who care about them. We’ll miss Boomer’s voice, his sweetness and his kindness to others, but we’re so happy to know that someone is out there who missed and needed him.

Boomer had only one problem, he didn’t know his way to the Greyhound station. T offered to show him where to go, and we parted ways for the day with lots of hugs and well wishes.

The next day when we arrived to open the Center, our friend Sawyer* asked if Pastor Hugh was around because he had a video for him. We crowded around Sawyer’s phone to watch a video of T and Boomer at the bus station. T had not only taken him there, but had stayed with him all night to make sure he got on the right bus because Boomer’s sight isn’t so good.

They had made a series of short videos throughout the night and next morning, and sent them to various friends at the center to let everyone know that they were okay. Here they were, an elderly white man with a fierce country accent, and a tall, young black man, singing together on video in the bus station. They exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch.

Boomer called us today to let us know that he arrived home safely. T stopped by, and we thanked him for helping Boomer out, but furthermore, going that extra mile to make sure he was safe in a place that he was unfamiliar with. We’ve watched T grow into a loving, caring young man who is doing everything he can to be a good father to a little baby girl, and a good friend to others. That’s the “Love Wins” effect. This week we saw love, and we definitely got a win.

Love Always Wins

This blog update was written by our newest employee, Blu Honeycutt.  You’ll be hearing more from her in future posts, so stay tuned!

 

I already had a vision in my mind of this collaboration of meaningful words that I wanted tattooed on my arm, and then this happened and it became something so much more…

I had been part of the Love Wins Community for a few years now, and over time, found that I didn’t need to go there anymore, (or so I thought). I began a journey to get my life together, a home, getting to see my kids, staying in recovery for over a year. I felt lost still. Something in my life was missing. I was fortunate enough to run into one of the Love Wins Community members, and I was told my help was needed, and that’s all I needed to hear. I needed purpose. I needed to be needed.

I showed up ready to do something, anything, I just wanted to stay busy, and I sure did. Washed dishes, cooked some food, folded clothes, just kept moving. I had a purpose: to help. After a few weeks of volunteering, I was standing in the kitchen with MaRanda and Alyssa, and began to tell them about this project I had in mind of getting inspirational words tattooed on my arms. I thought I needed to add Love Wins to that list of words. “I know right!!! I had been thinking about that!!! Love Wins right here!!!”, as Alyssa draws a line across her arm. “I’m gonna rock it right here!!!”, and MaRanda puts up her double fists. That was when the plan was hatched. We were on a mission and it was going to happen.

When the day came to go get the tattoos, I knew what it meant to me, to have something that I would share with two people that share my passion for making “Love” the “winner” in our lives. On a daily basis these two ladies give a part of their hearts to our community, and the people in our community see and feel that. That’s why they show up every morning before the doors open, and stay after they close to help. They have made love the big win in a lot of failures. I was honored to be part of something so grand.

As we got tattooed, we shared some great stories, and made plenty of new ones to share. That day we came together to share the heart and soul of our community, and to show that this is something we all need in our lives. This community is the purpose. We bond together over our desire to make Love Wins a great place for so many people. I will always be part of something bigger than me…. Love Always Wins.

For more about the tattoo process, check out “Giving away Privilege” , a blog post by MaRanda, our ED.  

Meet Blu!

We knew that when the time was right to hire someone, it would be someone we already knew. Someone who knew and loved our community. A person who had given of themselves, selflessly, through volunteer work and dedication, expecting nothing in return. A true believer in the mission of Love Wins and our 6 principles of hospitality. We asked the universe to send us our person, and the universe responded with Blu.

“Blu was made for this job! She’s a perfect fit,” Jill* said as she was gathering her things to leave for the day. I couldn’t agree more. Blu’s title is “Operations Associate”, because it’s the broadest title we could think of for the wide swath of talent that she brings to the table here at the center. We have a busy winter ahead and a newly implemented meal plan.

Hugh overheard me tell another volunteer “Check with Blu, she heads up our nutrition program”, and he said,“We have a nutrition program now? That sounds official. And fancy.” He’s right, it does, and we’re all really proud of it.

Blu is easy to talk to and has a natural talent for listening and really hearing people, it’s no surprise that she would like to be a substance abuse counselor. Our folks love her and trust her, often seeking her counsel to talk about challenges they face as well as celebrating their wins with her.

She’s profound in her wisdom and I learn something new from her daily. Her practical camping knowledge is invaluable when trying to meet the needs of people living outside during cold weather, and if there is anything more needed in this community than an outdoor enthusiast, I don’t know what it is yet.

Her resume is as fearless as she is, from dancing with the Moscow Ballet, to apprenticing as a body piercer, to learning to frame houses, working her way up and managing her own framing crew; she’s as strong as she is kind, and that’s Love Wins material. Welcome to the family, Blu, we’re so lucky to have you!

*Names of community members are changed to protect privacy

Connecting, Person to Person

This blog entry was written by Elaine Bayless, a long-time friend of the CEC and a current volunteer.  Elaine has a passion for puzzles, all things crafty, and can be found making pancakes on Monday mornings in the community kitchen.  If you would like to read more of her writing on theology, feminism and motherhood, please check out her blog at: https://elainefbayless.blogspot.com.

I’ve financially supported Love Wins and the Community Engagement Center for a while, but I’m not much of a “hands on” kind of person. I prefer to give money than get out of my comfort zone. But recently at Love Wins, there was a crisis, and they needed volunteers at the center to keep it open. And I was available.

My primary job was to provide a “non anxious presence,” although I also handed out toiletries, sorted clothing donations, washed dishes in the kitchen, and desperately tried to learn names. I was glad I didn’t have to do anything more challenging, because I was definitely out of my comfort zone!

Despite my initial discomfort, I fell in love with the guests. I’d never had any meaningful interactions with people experiencing homelessness before. But at the Community Engagement Center, meaningful interactions were natural. Everyone is free to be themselves there. Free to talk, joke, laugh, or just sit and drink coffee.

After a few months, I realized I am a part of the community. Every Monday I make the morning pancakes. I sing my pancake song and laugh about the pancake batter being slung everywhere (I am not a neat cook). I’ve learned a lot of names, and many of the guests have learned my name too. I also work on puzzles. My first puzzle didn’t last past the first week. But when I started my second puzzle, I noticed that during the days I wasn’t there, community members covered it carefully so it wouldn’t be dismantled. I’m now on my third puzzle, and people are adding to it all week long. We laugh about whether I’ll finish it before Christmas, and joke about throwing pieces away.

The other morning I was sitting at a table chatting with a new guest. He began talking about how a preacher can’t minister to someone unless he’s experienced the pain. IE, he can’t minister to a felon unless he’s been in prison; he can’t minister to a drug addict unless he’s been addicted first.

“You now. You’ve never seen the bright light from the refrigerator, have you?” he asked me with a challenging look.

I didn’t know if this was a euphemism or a literal statement, so I said no.

“I knew it. It’s when you open the fridge and there’s no food. The light is bright, because nothing’s blocking it.”

I had to admit, that’s nothing that’s ever happened to me.

“Well then, see, how can you help us?”

I smiled. This I knew the answer to. “I’m not trying to help anybody. I’m just here to make pancakes.”

My answer satisfied him.

Because people don’t want to be fixed. They want to be known. After all, what could I, a 40 something middle class white lady, offer him, a black painter living hand to mouth on the street? Nothing but pancakes and conversation. And beneath that, simple respect and acceptance. When I look at him, I see a person, not a status.

And that’s what the Love Wins Community Engagement Center is: a place where everyone is a person first. It’s not about fixing or helping or teaching. It’s about connecting, person to person.

Thankful for the wins

Winning!

“We came back here to give back.  I need something, a purpose.” – Blu, while scrambling eggs

When we were on the precipice of autumn’s beginning, Hugh told me to “Relish the wins.  Winter is hell”.  Winter is tough.  Today we pulled out the hats, scarves, gloves and handwarmers that we’ve been storing up over the summer.  Luckily, everyone got clothed today.  I say “luckily” because our amount of guests has increased.

This, by all means, is a good thing, but we did find ourselves very quickly heating up emergency side-dishes at lunch because it looked as though there was simply not going to be enough.

This leads me to my first story of “winning”.  Our dedicated kitchen crew evolves over time, and Rob*, a sweet man who we jokingly refer to as “The Swedish Iron Chef”, has decided to return home to his family and friends.

Cooking with Rob* is a lot like cooking with anybody’s dad.  There’s a “meat first” focus.  He likes to make gravy.  His organizational system is something only he can follow.  One day I walked into the kitchen and he needed “emergency cornstarch” for the gravy.  There was at least 3 different types of food going and he was racing around and I laughingly did my best impression of the Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show, and the joke stuck.

Rob is a father and a grandfather.  He always says to take care of “little people and ladies first”.  He spends a lot of time networking and finding things to help other people.  Rob is on a walk-about; he’s grieving the loss of his wife, and he expresses that grief by traveling the world as a transient person, helping other transient people.  His brother passed away last week and he decided to go home and visit family and friends.  We got him a ticket and I took him to gather his things.

He showed me several clever stashes he had in the woods of tarps and blankets that he kept for giving out to people who had none.  I’m going to honor his wishes and make sure these things make it into the hands of folks who can use them.  I was tearful as I dropped him off at the Greyhound station, but also happy that he was going home to family that I’m sure was worried about him.

When people return to family and safety, that’s a big win. He thank us all several times, at one point saying that “cooking for people was all that was holding him together for a while”.  No, thank YOU, Rob for sharing your gifts with us.

His absence has left a spot on our Kitchen Team, which this week we’ve discovered, is probably more than just one spot.  Luckily, our friend, Blu, came to us this week to volunteer and we couldn’t be happier.

We love Blu.  She has been on a lived journey through addiction, and now she’s emerged on the other side, a success.  Blu coined the phrase “We were hopeless dope fiends, but now we’re dopeless hope fiends”.  I want her to make t-shirts that say that.  “I want to contribute to the place that helped me so much.  It gives me purpose”, she says.

We’ve talked a LOT about purpose this week.  Blu wants to start a support group for people who are using methadone to get off of heroine, as currently, there is nothing like that.  Her goal is to work in substance-abuse counseling.  “Love Wins loves with a radical kind of love,” I said to her, “There’s a place here for things that have never been done before, and I think your idea is excellent!”

In our line of work, the ultimate win is having everything come full circle- when our community members are successful and reach their goals, returning to us as volunteers.

While we’re on the subject of the Kitchen Team, you may remember last week’s blog about Dana*, who was looking for a job in the restaurant industry.  She won big today and got a job working in the kitchen of a very nice local restaurant that welcomes her with open arms.  We’re so proud of her, but more than that, she’s proud of herself.  Yesterday she made homemade salad dressing that was better than any vinaigrette I’ve tasted in my life; people actually, happily, ate all of the salad and returned for seconds (which is a smaller win in and of itself).

Winning looks many different ways here – going home, kicking a habit, getting a job.  Two of our folks have gotten approved for housing this week, which is a huge win for them before the weather gets too cold. Our community volunteer team is growing by leaps and bounds making the culture at the center even more familial.

Everyone is fired up about Thanksgiving and excited about cooking for Big Lunch Wednesday on the 22nd.  You’re invited, and if you’d like to bring something, please email Alyssa at alyssa@lovewinscec.org .

*Names are changed, to protect the privacy of community members. 

Agency: Dana’s Story

Folks who have ever heard us talk about the six principles of hospitality have heard us say that the first thing to go when a person becomes homeless is agency: the right to exert power in their own lives. People lose options of choosing where they sleep, where they spend their time, where they take showers or brush their teeth, what they wear and what they eat.

There is always one well-meaning soul who says “Well, I guess if I was hungry I’d eat whatever was served to me.” I always explain that we give choices because it gives dignity for what could otherwise be an undignified situation. People who are homeless are a swath of humanity just like any population; they have allergies, they don’t like things they were forced to eat as children, there are texture issues- they’re exactly like having a potluck at your office.

When agency is granted, people’s attitudes change and they gain confidence and ability. When you give a person the choice to also volunteer and choose what tasks they’d like to do, you further their agency and increase their ability TO DO. Love Wins loves with a radical sort of love, so I’ve heard. Our guests get to take agency to the next level and not only choose what they eat, but they choose how it’s prepared and cook it themselves and then go a step further and serve one another. This leads to ownership and empowerment.

Our friend Dana* has taken her agency to the next level, and her story, like ripples in a pond, has had effects on the entire community. Dana is a very small woman, the tiniest woman who comes to the center. She has a tiny voice and a big, beautiful smile. When our guests sort donations, they make a pile of the tiniest things to offer to Dana and our co-worker, Alyssa, who wear the same size clothes and shoes. Our people are always trying to look out for us, even when we tell them that “leaders eat last”.

When Dana first came to the center, we noticed that even among her peers, she didn’t have very high standing. This was, unfortunately, because of a bias- Dana is trans: She was assigned male at birth but is currently transitioning to confirm her identity. Looking at her, she’s so slight and so obviously female, it’s hard to imagine her any other way, but people are afraid of what they don’t understand, so there is still a lot of teaching and guiding ahead for us.

However, agency is steering the boat.

Dana is an amazing cook. She was shy at first- she would just visit the kitchen to see what we were doing. Then she started asking if there was anything that needed to be done. Then she had ideas as she saw produce or meat come in. Our guests started to take notice of how tasty the food was. Dana started getting high-fives and fist bumps. One day after lunch her friends said “Wow, you really can cook!” and one of our other kitchen team members, Rob*, gave her a fist bump and exclaimed “Kitchen Team!” Her smile made my entire day.

Dana is now a full-fledged volunteer. She comes in early when she can to prep breakfast, sometimes before we even open. Yesterday she helped our volunteer crew coordinate big lunch. She knows where all of the kitchen things live, how sweet to make the tea, what needs to go out and where, and often serves with the volunteer groups; she’s not standing in line anymore, she’s being a leader, and we’re all so proud of her. Her standing among her peers has improved tremendously, and it’s changed hearts.

The quickest way to change a heart is for a person to care about the well-being of another. Agency allows people to shine and show their gifts to the world. The world looks at them differently, the world starts to love them. That’s when Love Wins with a radical love. Dana would like to get a job working professionally in a kitchen and is building her resume’ here. If you know anyone who would welcome her to their kitchen with open arms, please don’t hesitate to email me at maranda@lovewinscec.org.

*As always, we change the names of guests in order to protect their privacy. 

Tiny Miracles

“If we’re only open from 9 am- 1 pm every day, let’s make it the best 4 hours we can.  I want to serve breakfast and lunch every day.”

– Me, day 1 as Love Wins CEC Executive Director

(Miracles, please don’t fail me now.)

When I said that, Hugh cautioned me: “Now you know if we promise this and we can’t deliver, we’re assholes.”

I believe in a series of small miracles.  I see no less than 4 miracles a day. Truthfully, I think some are karmic in nature, but I think that’s what praying and communion truly are- energy put out into the world and returned.

I have faith that we can feed people every day.

I fearlessly believe in tiny miracles, and I push them around with my pointer finger and a social media account.   I’m happy to report that we have fed people every day that we’ve been open this month, both breakfast and lunch.  I’m proud to say that our community members, when given the tools, step up to feed one another and the result is a communion of fellowship and friendship.

My background is, educationally, in Horticultural Science, specifically fruit and vegetable production.  I found my way to this major because I love to feed people.  Occupationally, it is Hospitality Services; food and beverage while making people feel at home.  My private life is a mix of these two things; playing “Iron Chef” with whatever I can grow in my garden.

I can scan a fridge, freezer and cabinet and somehow make food, a skill that was strongly influenced by my mother, youthful poverty, and a very elderly Puerto-Rican woman who I made friends with when I was 19 years old that simply went by “Mami”.  She spoke no English and could make food out of anything on a budget of almost nothing.  She taught me to see every small ingredient as simply a piece to a larger thing and watching her cook created the basis of how I began to think of the utilization of food.

Hospitality people know other hospitality people.  They’re the best people to know if you happen to run a place of hospitality.  I’m rich in hospitality friends:  chefs, bartenders, servers, managers, restaurant owners, former restaurant owners, really good cooks, folks who makes good barbecue at the neighborhood cookouts.

Over the last month, these friends have stepped up to fill in the gaps and provide us with what we need to serve breakfast and lunch every day.  I always tell folks that here in Raleigh, we’re spoiled with amazing restaurants.  Those restaurants are owned by amazing people.

Miracles are created in a pot using gifted potatoes and onions, spices donated from a local grocery store, some herbs grown in our yard, and chicken stock from yesterday’s meal.  A pot of miracles contains no less than 4 smaller miracles stirred with a wooden spoon that was found inside of a flower pot, nestled next to a sweater and an old book on the stoop next to the center door (making it technically no less than 5 smaller miracles, if miracles are allowed to be repeated in spoon form).  Repeat this several times, throw in a surprise volunteer, a pair of shoes just the right size, $10 showing up when we were $10 short and there’s 4 tiny miracles.

They’re karmic in nature because of the love and community that went into the pot, fed the people and provided the energy that then returned in the form of say, paper towels.  If you’ve never seen tiny miracles, please come volunteer with us for a day.  You’ll see no less than 4, I promise.