Youth in Alabama in the cities of Huntsville and Birmingham are engaged in providing meals to the homeless on an ongoing monthly basis. These activities range from preparing and packaging healthy vegetarian meals in homes and handing them to homeless individuals near the street at Manna House, to more conventional methods, including bringing prepared meals to a homeless shelter, serving them, and cleaning the dining areas in the facility afterwards. Depending on the meal, three to six trays of main course items are required, along with fruits, desserts, and drinks.
One such venue where these opportunities are offered is the Downtown Rescue Mission (DRM) of Huntsville, Alabama. Volunteers are required to complete a background check as well as a two-hour orientation to familiarize themselves with the facility and its guidelines. Three meals are served daily in the two shelters of the DRM, one for women and children and the other for men. Approximately five volunteers are required for each one-hour shift. Signing up to cover a shift is easy, as the DRM uses Volunteer Hub software which allows volunteers to create accounts.
The goal of the DRM is to house approximately 150 homeless individuals who have a desire to earn a living and follow Christian principles in order to achieve this. Meals are preceded by sermons presented by in-house ministers. Youth in Alabama serve meals to the homeless alongside facility staff and enterprising homeless individuals who are intent on giving back. The greatest lessons learned during these undertakings have been witnessing the immense gratitude expressed by these homeless individuals for both food and assistance, and also their humility.
Contact Information: Raja Ekambaram (256) 566-5220
At the Center for Human Development center of Carlisle, MA volunteers make sandwich bags to distribute nearby homeless shelters in Lowell, MA. The bags are filled with sandwiches, snacks, juice, and water. It is a blessed joy to help those in need, from young adults to elderly people in wheelchairs. It touches volunteer hearts to be able to give back to the community and put smiles on all of their faces. For more information about the Boston Center for Human Development sandwich service email: [email protected]
The Denver Sathya Sai Baba Burrito Service Project started over 20 years ago. A small Sai Baba group that met every Thursday evening decided to use one meeting every month to assemble burritos and deliver them to the homeless in Downtown Denver. There were only about 6-8 people assembling 300 burritos, warming them and delivering them to a long line of men and women that made their home outdoors in Civic Center Park.
As years went by, Denver enacted laws that stopped people from handing out food in the park unless they had a food vendor’s license. It was then decided to begin delivering the burritos to the kitchens of various homeless shelters.
In 2016 Burrito Service Project expanded to include more volunteers and serve more of the hungry in Denver. The project now has a group of over thirty people who take turns once a month to serve at the Sathya Sai Baba’s Burrito Project. There are volunteers from all over the Denver area and from Northern Colorado who deliver approximately 450 Burritos to two shelters once a month.
In the spirit of expanding this service and offering more people opportunities to serve, the group now has an annual Winter Outerwear Drive every November that is open to the 85 businesses in the office building where they hold their monthly Burrito Project. Hundreds of coats, jackets, gloves, scarves and boots are delivered to the shelters on the first of December each year.
For more information about the Denver Project email :[email protected]
Houston, like other large cities in America, has many community shelters for its most displaced citizens. But there are far more needy people than can be taken in by the shelters, and some inevitably get left out to fend for themselves. Unfortunately for these souls, the only shelter from the equally unforgiving scorching sun and torrential downpours comes in the form of overpasses. It is under these bridges in the not-yet-gentrified parts of Houston that a group of young adults, inspired by the scope of various humanitarian projects being undertaken around the world, decided to start spreading their love.
They would gather at one of their places on a Sunday morning with the raw ingredients to prepare 100+ sandwich lunches, and assemble themselves in a minivan – their beloved “love mobile” as they liked to call it – to disperse their small gifts of lunch and love throughout the city. As they would drive throughout the city following their inner GPS, they would find pockets of desperation and eyes go from a puzzled “Why are they pulling in here?” look to eyes which lit up when they realized there was finally a respite to their hunger for food and humanity.
Over a few months of this, they started opening up to and became more attuned to the needs of their fellow man. “We can’t just hand out the sandwiches, juice, and crackers and be content with a ‘Hello’ or ‘God Bless’ – thought the group – but let’s actually put ourselves in their world and ask them with disarming smiles, ‘How else can we help you?’ or ‘What do you need most?’” They got their answers very quickly- drinking water and sanitary supplies. In the subsequent months, the group made sure to include these items along with their usual love-infused sandwich lunches in their handouts. They would meet people spanning a variety of backgrounds and mindsets. Some would thank the group but maintain, “Hope we don’t have to see you next time,” implying that they were keeping a positive mind about their current plight being nothing more than a short-term speed bump. Others seemed broken and beaten by turbulent times saying, “For us, this is the only way we live.” They would encounter situations when the needy outnumbered the packages, but the ones who realized they could bear a greater burden calmly gave back their share saying, “We are needy but not greedy.” Over time, it became more and more apparent to our “squadron of love” that these acts of giving back were every bit for their sake, their own journey of transformation, as it was for the beneficiaries.
Indeed, love is like a mirror- the power of love, when reciprocated, doesn’t diminish; rather, it multiplies. When God places beacons of love amongst the needy, the solace for those giving is not just in feeling inspired and optimistic. Sure that may be a by-product, but there is much more taking place on a deeper level here. More so, it is a call: to refill all our hearts; to untemper our collective urge to be able to give again, and share again, and truly love again; to shine our collective light even brighter.
For more information about the Houston Homeless Feeding email: [email protected]
Sai Ashraya/Sai Refuge
Street to Stability Project (S2S)
The Street to Stability (S2S) project was seeded by Sathya Sai Baba in a Bay Area Discourse to young adults (ages 16–45) in 2016. Hence, the youth’s mission became: eradicate homelessness for youth ages 16–24 and children ages 6–16, with its initial and current focus to help homeless teens.
Most homeless youth and/or children in America experience emotional and mental upheaval, especially while living on the streets or moving from couch to couch in various homes, temporarily out of sight of predators. Their emotional state becomes delicate and defensive, making it harder for them to enter mainstream society.
The Street to Stability team supports, nurtures and mentors these youth constantly from their initial meeting until they are deemed stable. They encourage homeless youth who are interested in obtaining a job, or have a job and need a home, in participating in the “Path to Stability.” This means team members accompany the teen to connect with existing agencies that offer job training, assist with creating resumes, and follow-up with all involved agencies or work environments September 2018 regarding their client’s progress. As Swami said, “It’s not good enough just to keep doing temporary solutions; we must find a permanent solution.”
The S2S youth volunteers, in only two years, have been building a solid foundation and expertise in understanding and gaining the trust of homeless teens. To date, some of their activities include:
Five team members became qualified and certified by the State of California to operate and manage a homeless facility or drop-in shelter.
The team identified nine homeless youth staying in shelters and interested in employment and placed them into the S2S program to work with a variety of agencies. Some of the youth qualified for placement at PeopleShores and are no longer living in shelters but are renters. A few have been hired for full time employment; others are being readied for the same. The S2S team has witnessed these youth’s lives transform in a positive way.
The S2S team’s outreach program includes participating in homeless adult and youth feedings (hot breakfast/lunch or dinner) at various Bay Area teen shelters. This offers a way to locate, motivate and learn more about homeless, abused, couch-surfing, at-risk youth.
A first Street to Stability Convention in June 2018 offered an opportunity to present Street to Stability’s mission and goals to a variety of companies, corporations, not-for-profit organizations and training agencies involved with addressing teen homelessness. Interested companies are now working with S2S to provide employment training to the homeless youth in fields such as construction, IT, customer service and manufacturing.
The S2S teen homeless initiative has inspired other like-minded groups in states such as Georgia, Texas, Kansas and New York to offer weekly/monthly provisions of food, hygiene kits and/or clothing to homeless youth, slowly leading to collaborative efforts that are the first steps in bringing them off the streets into a stable life.
In His June 2018 visit, Swami blessed the “Kids Helping Kids” program, conceived to be a high school outreach program to identify and offer prevention strategies to at-risk high school teens.
For more information about Street to Stabilit/Sai Ashraya email: [email protected].
Every Saturday at 10:30 am a group of volunteers, along with those inspired from the community meet at Brother Bennos, a non-profit soup kitchen in Oceanside, to hand out 120 bag lunches in the “All About Love” program. Those that attend would otherwise go without food on Sunday as Brother Bennos which serves a hot breakfast to those in need every day of the week, is closed on Sunday for their religious services.
Filling this gap in their offering has been a great opportunity to practice Sai Baba’s teaching of Love All Serve All. The love that is shared is the real “food” and is received with open hearts by those who show up each week.
If you would like to participate, please contact Phyllis at: [email protected] for details.
Santa Ana California
Food Distribution Project
A small group of volunteers have been distributing food and water in the Santa Ana area for more than two years as a monthly service activity. They have made breakfast muffins, burritos and sandwiches over the years with snacks, fruit and water. They drop off food to the local shelter since the city no longer allows food distribution on the streets.
There is also the ‘OceanOfLove’ project where volunteers hold retreats for a weekend mostly once a year. This is open to everyone interested in becoming a better person. This project has been going for 10 years with a variety of people attending from all walks of life.
For further information contact: [email protected]
Needs Soccer Clinic
How a Service Project is Born
One day I was talking to the director of Special populations (part of Parks & Recreation) at a meeting and she proceeded to tell me how the parents of special needs children are an ignored group of people! Well, that struck a chord with me. “What do you mean”, I said. She replied, “These parents are so overwhelmed with daily, hourly and at times minute by minute care for these children they need a break!”
Out of that was born was an idea to combine a personal love for soccer and finding an opportunity to help. An idea which most people have not considered. Thus began the Soccer Clinic for Special Needs Children which is held periodically based on the children and field availability. In the city Of Acworth, Georgia they have constructed a special field for these children. A field designed and built for their comfort and use. Since 2009, this service group has conducted 2-3 soccer clinics per year.
The group spends one hour teaching a progression method of soccer skills. They use only nerf balls for safety. The hour ends with a game where these soccer skills are implemented. Every goal, every save and every awesome move they make is celebrated. In between each skill set there are water breaks when the children go and visit with their parents for a few minutes. Many volunteers came to help and support these soccer clinics. Then other ideas were born to better serve the families.
Afterward, pizzas are provided and everyone visits and enjoys the food and friendships with the children and parents, siblings, grandparents, caregivers and others who join in the fun. And just before the children leave they are offered gift bags that include toys, nerf soccer balls and restaurant gift cards, hotel night stays for the family to enjoy. Parents are full of gratitude that someone would do this for them. This soccer clinic is conducted through, With Pure Love a 501 © 3 Non-Profit organization.
For more information email: [email protected]