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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Loaves and Fishes; Serving Breakfast At Friendship Park

On my previous Loaves and Fishes post, I had mentioned about my next plan to recruit a crew to prepare and serve meals to all the homeless guests who come to Loaves and Fishes. At last and with great joy, we accomplished this mission by preparing and serving a big breakfast. What we served made a wonderful addition to their normal breakfast. These homeless guests have access to only one full meal a day at noon in the Loaves and Fishes dining room. What's great was that there was enough food leftover for some to keep for an extra meal. 

I am so thankful to have my friends, The Spices Of Life readers, neighbors and parents from my kids' school who have generously given up their time, energy, and financial support to make this event possible and realized the goal of serving nearly 300 homeless guests. A special thanks to the Elk Grove Unified School District for helping us with food ordering; Bel Air supermarket and Arnold Adreani school for letting us store our food in your refrigerators. What a communal effort! 

A day before, 600 eggs were boiled at a friend's Bon Mua restaurant; 300+ sandwiches were assembled in my bustling kitchen. Bananas, vegetable mixed packs, dried fruit mix, packets of salt, pepper, and mayo to go with the eggs and sandwiches completed the ensemble.

On the morning of Thursday, October 8th, our crew left the house when it was still dark outside to load up supplies and food from various locations. By 7:30 am, we arrived at the Friendship Park where only adult guests from 18 years old and over were allowed. I was a little bit nervous but excited as I saw a long line of the guests standing and waiting patiently to receive their breakfast.

We had a morning full of blessings as we had the opportunity to serve our guests, and learn about them. For many years, Loaves and Fishes has provided coffee and tea at breakfast along with one day-old cakes and pastries. We witnessed the generous portion of a cake that these guests received and we were shock at how much sugar they take in every morning.  I was glad that we were able to offer a change - even for a day. The guests expressed their sincere gratitude as they picked up their food. 

this is me and the homeless guest :-)

our volunteer group

As I approached and started a conversation with some of the guests, one of them opened up about his life and told me how he ended up being homeless. I asked for his permission to take a picture of him but he refused as he didn't want to be seen by his family, and friends on the social media.

Towards the conclusion of the breakfast, Father Chu, who has been spending every day here at Loaves and Fishes to do what he can to lend a hand and help out. He shared with us and recounted a story of a former military man who returned from the United Kingdom after many years of service. He didn't have family around or a place to call home.  He couldn't even find a job outside of the military and ended up being homeless. He came to Loaves and Fishes for support.  While he was at Loaves and Fishes, he volunteered to help out.  The staff liked him and saw that he could work. They offered him a job. With the money that he earned, he is able to pay for rent but it was insufficient to cover the cost of food. He's still depending on Loaves and Fishes for food as many do. It made me keenly sensible to this quote that I saw on the wall at Loaves and Fishes, "Homeless is a situation, it's not who you are". 

Sister Libby Fernandez, the Executive Director of Loaves and Fishes, had a vision to create a Homeless Survival Breakfast program. It will take many months before it will be fully organized to provide a healthy breakfast every day, but October 8th was a big first step in realizing her vision.

As Thanksgiving approaches, The Spices Of Life (TSOL) is planning to reach out to these homeless guests once again.  Our next breakfast for the homeless guests will be on Thursday, November 12th. After this event, TSOL is hoping to continue this work on a quarterly basis when financially feasible. The reality is without your generous donations - time, money, and food - none of this would have been possible. Our work is appreciated.

I came away from this experience realizing that our success is food to quell their hunger and water to quench their thirst . . . but more importantly it's hope for an embattled spirit. 

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