Volunteering at CHiPS Soup Kitchen

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I volunteered at CHiPS several times this winter and each time it was different. The first time I went, I helped set up tables for the people who come to eat each Saturday. The second time I went, it was freezing outside and I wondered where the people were waiting while we got the room ready for them. It felt good to know I was helping them get food. I’ve done a ton of different things at CHiPS like rolling 100s of plastic utensils in paper napkins, sorting different fruit cups and placing them on trays. I also figured out how to use a huge percolator coffee maker that makes 100 cups of coffee at a time! I’ve gone there with my dad and my mom too. One of the cool parts of volunteering at CHiPS is seeing all the people who come each week to help. Sometimes there are so many of us that there isn’t much to do. Because I am 15, I can’t help cook in the kitchen and I leave before the people who eat at CHiPS get there, but it feels great to see so many people wanting to help.

- Lucy, age 15,  Brooklyn, NY 2/9/2018

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Volunteering Together

As parents, we work hard to ensure our children grow up to be compassionate, kind, and productive members of the community.  In a city where homelessness and poverty are part of one’s daily commute, I often fear becoming desensitized and have struggled with how to model compassion, kindness, and action for our kids when we know we can’t help every person we see.  

Volunteering at CHIPS and the Recovery House through New York Families Give Back with my 9-year-old daughter has allowed me to show her the power a group can have in supporting others.  We have volunteered through NYFGB on a regular basis since she was six, with a goal of once a month.  Since then, she has helped serve hundreds, learning the importance and role of the community in helping those in need.  At CHIPS’ Saturday lunches, we have cut bread for serving, rolled silverware and napkins, decorated tables, poured juice, and prepared to-go food bags.  These are simple, yet necessary tasks in which she takes great pride.  At Recovery House’s Food Pantry, we have bagged grocery items on an assembly line (sometimes at great speed, evoking the scene of Lucy and Ethel furiously wrapping chocolates!) and distributed to those who come.  Greeting and being thanked by patrons fosters a connection, putting faces to the food insecurity that is often invisible on our daily commutes. 

When asked why she likes to volunteer, my daughter replied, “I like to do it because I want to help people who may not have enough to eat.”  Pretty simple.

I am so thankful to Amy Lehr for founding New York Families Give Back and to CHIPS and Recovery House the wonderful work they’re doing every day in Brooklyn.  Being part of their work has provided me and my daughter with the spark and natural opportunity to discuss difficult but deeply important topics such as mental illness, hunger, homelessness, how people may find themselves in such circumstances, and most importantly – the compassion, kindness, and service incumbent upon us all.

- Kajal Patel Below, Brooklyn, NY 5/30/17