This month, I volunteered at a soup kitchen for the first time ever. It was CHiPS Soup Kitchen, a partner of Visit.org in NYC.
Growing up, volunteering in soup kitchens was an extremely popular extracurricular activity amongst NYC’s youth. My friends would go together regularly. And while I would have liked to join them, for some reason, it just never worked out. So, for a while I felt guilty for not lending a helping hand. But finally, at age 22, I was able to do just that.
I realize now that regardless of age, time, or place, helping others is something everyone can and should do. And CHiPS is a great place to start!
How to get to CHiPS in Brooklyn
Situated in the outskirts of Park Slope, CHiPS is a soup kitchen and shelter. In 2017, its neighboring residents allotted roughly $60,000 (through NYC Councilman Brad Lander’s participatory budgeting) to provide the shelter and its residents warm, well-deserved, mobile showers.
Find CHiPS at 200 4th Avenue (not Street), Brooklyn, NY
During my first trip to CHiPS, I found myself on 4th street in Williamsburg rather than at the correct location on 4th avenue in Flatbush. Despite my detour, I arrived on time.
A Herd of Voices
The first thing I noticed was how many guests there were surrounding the entrance to CHiPS. They were all waiting to get their bellies filled, their hearts touched, and their faith restored.
Then, I noticed the powerful mural encompassing their building, featuring powerful women of color, including intellectuals, mothers, and artists. It read: “Voices Herd.” The mural re-emphasized CHiPS’s mission to be a non profit organization that provides meals to a local soup kitchen and to a shelter that houses young women and their infants.
An Energizing CSR Activity
Back on ground level, I made my way through the line of CHiPS devotees, through an entrance that was filled with bagels and hot coffee. There, I joined my companions: members of a NYC-based company, which booked this activity through Visit.org, as a way to promote team bonding as well as corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Janice, the soup kitchen’s representative, introduced us to CHiPS’s mission: to provide food and shelter for the hungry and homeless in Brooklyn, NY. Because the experience was booked through Visit.org, the revenue was invested in providing financial support for such individuals and their families.
Janice uttered a phrase that stuck with me for weeks later: “When we munch, eat, sit down for breakfast lunch or dinner, we don’t really think of the privilege of feeling full, of eating, of having our stomachs be satisfied. So, remember that today as you help others get something we forget is a privilege.”
With that in mind, everyone there was even more eager to help out. In fact, it was one of the company team members’ birthday, and he described how getting to spend it helping out at CHiPS ensured the new year of his life was “off to a great start!” Although we were in a relatively dark cafeteria, the atmosphere was energizing. Once everyone put on their aprons, gloves, and hats, the birthday celebrant even started Voguing as his colleagues laughed and urged him on.
What to Expect at CHiPS
Shortly after getting into our gear, Janice started handing out huge plastic bags filled with kale, peppers, okras, carrots, lettuce, and many more vegetables. They were passed down an assembly line, and eventually ended up packed in bags for the guests to take home.
While simple, the 4-hour activity we participated in that day (which ranged from bagging vegetables to chopping them, prepping the kitchen to cooking in it, handing out the food, and cleaning up the kitchen) was an opportunity to offer CHiPS’s guests a compassionate interaction.
I believe this experience was the best way to initiate myself into the soup kitchen volunteering realm. The partnership between CHiPS and Visit.org proved to me that such opportunities are easy to come by.
Now, I’m ready to book my next experience with Visit.org and continue the momentum of such crucial partnerships that promote care and gratitude during this difficult juncture in time.