Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Selfless + Food= Community

That's my Park Slope Food Co-op crew C1 Squad (l to r, Tom, Stephanie, Yusako, Matthew behind, me, Mujafi) on the left that cooks meals at Park Slope's C.H.I.P.'s soup kitchen every four weeks as part of our membership responsibility. I've managed to be in a position to use my passions in life music and now food to help people who are less fortunate. But this article is not about me. While I acknowledge that I am proud to be doing this, I also know it's part of an obligation that I am fulfilling. I love the challenge of cooking for over 100 people in just a few hours using produce that the Co-op can not sell but is edible mixed with other random ingredients. I get as much out of my experience as a chef as hopefully our guests get enjoyment and nutrition out of their meal.

What I will write about are the people who come to the kitchen to volunteer because they care about helping people who are less fortunate. I'm not a very religious man but from my understanding of Hindu you reach Nirvana (heaven) by being selfless. I've met lot's of people over the years that should have a place in a peaceful afterlife for the good deeds they have done on earth.

The picture on the right below is of Serita Lewis, a photographer who is volunteer leader at the soup kitchen. She is one of the many selfless people I have met who come to the kitchen to help make sure that the clients we serve get fed a nutritious, balanced and tasty meal. Serita uses her photojournalistic skills to tell the stories of people who are homeless through her blog
"This project is my way of documenting the humanity of people living on the fringes of their cultures, just outside the norm. I hope to portray the unique stories that have shaped each person into the individual that they are, and by each journey to illustrate the connections between us all. No guilt-trips and no rosy picture painting either… Simply people as people; Humanity in all our grace and tenderness and pain".

Serita's interviews with 4 men (Serita's photo's of George on the left and Chris on the right down below are two of the men) who are homeless offers a personal, insightful, sincere, dignified and honest look into the complex issues of homelessness without being judge-mental or patronizing. It's difficult sometimes in our busy lives to pass by someone who is homeless and take a moment to consider that there's a person underneath the old tattered clothes. Not many people actually slow down enough to converse on a human level as Serita has done.

Another volunteer leader I'd like to mention with admiration is Dali Boczek. Dali has been coming to C.H.I.P.'s for over 5 years. She drives all the way from Suffolk County on Long Island. Not only does she volunteer her time but she usually comes with food she has purchased from Costco, like packages of chicken, fresh herbs, homemade sufrito, bags of rice and cookies. Her famous Spanish rice is a very popular dish among the clients, never any leftovers when we serve that. She promised me her secret recipe but so far it's still a secret. Last December Dali came to her shift despite the fact that she had just lost her job after I think 20 years or so for the same company, and on top of that being really under the weather too. Funny thing about people like Serita and Dali and the countless volunteers I have met they don't brag about what they do, they do it with quiet grace. That is what being selfless is all about and the best way to build a strong community.

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