Bringing Warmth and Love to Homeless Veterans in Philadelphia

Our new outreach is to help the homeless in Philadelphia. We have hosted 3 parties for homeless vets.  Link to WHYY public radio story with 14 pictures

Singing with the Vets at the Shelter


I got the idea accidentally or maybe it was providentially when I stopped on a street in Philadelphia to ask directions. The two men standing outside a building said that the place where they were standing was a shelter for homeless vets. HOMELESS VETS? Somehow the words Homeless and Vets seemed to be so sad to be in the same sentence.

I called the shelter office the next day and asked if my friends and I could host a Valentines for Vets party for them. We did just that on February 11th. And then we hosted a Motown Magic Dance Party there on March 11th and a third party in June.

As an empty-nester mom and grandmom, I was looking for my passion and purpose in 2017 and I found it.

One of the Vets Singing a Solo

Here are my thoughts after the first party:

The director said, “This is a shelter and the men have never bonded or even talked to each other. They have never done anything like this. I am blown away by what is happening here with all of them.”

Terry, graduated from West Catholic in 1968: “I feel like I am finally home. I never felt home since I came back from Vietnam but what you ladies did for us today, I am home now. You recognized us and thanked us. I can see you are crying with me now too.”

Ben who sang God Bless America as if he was on the field of the Super Bowl, with tears said, “I can’t believe what is happening here right now.”

The co-director Ayesha said, “This is the first time we have had any visitors in here to do anything like a program. I have never seen them acting like this. Will you come again, please?”

Three of our volunteers know deep sadness and had their own children pass away from addiction. They gave their time and their hearts today to all of the men.

Kim offered to come back and give haircuts with a friend. She plans to learn how to cut diverse kinds of hair.

Mr. Jordan asked if we could come down and do line dancing sometime. Maybe teach one dance or two. Anybody want to do that? Any kind of dance would be fine.

And what did we do with the refreshments that were left over? Mr. Jordan runs another shelter on Broad Street. We packed things up so he could have a Valentine Party for another group of men later in the day. Twice blessed by my friends! Thank you to all!

Motown Magic Dance Party for Vets

Fun Singing Motown with the Vets – March 11th Party

Here is a link to the Open Arms Transitional Housing Office located at 4122 Kensington Avenue, Philadelphia, PA. Please call them and ask about their current needs before collecting items and then you can make your own arrangements for delivery of donations.

Link to Open Arms Transitional Housing for Vets

Here are some of the items that they requested for the men who live there. All donations must be in very clean and good condition. To preserve the dignity of each vet, we must only donate things that would be suitable for our own loved ones.
Clothes for all seasons: Hats, gloves, scarves, belts, shorts, coats, shoes, socks, underwear, shirts, sweat suits, trousers/pants/jeans
Twin bedding: Quilts, blankets, pillow cases, sheets
Hygiene Products: Soap, deodorant, razors, shaving cream, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, towels
Individually Wrapped Snacks: granola bars, juice boxes, chips, pretzels, Pop Tarts, candy bars, gum,peanut butter/cheese crackers (Not loose snacks – just cellophane packaged that the men can take outdoors with them for snacks during the day while they go to their outpatient treatment programs for mental health and addiction issues.)
Magazines and Books about Sports Figures

(They do not need food as they receive donations from grocery stores.)

MY THOUGHTS AFTER THE MOTOWN MAGIC SINGING AND DANCING PARTY:
I texted Kathy late last night and said, “I got it. I figured out what we should do for the men at the shelter.”

Start a choral group! Yesterday, many of the older vets could not stand or walk well due to arthritis but they enjoyed the singing yesterday from their chairs. I thought that I had a brand new idea but alas…..it is being done in so many places.

I googled the topic and wow-wee! So singers out there, will you join me next time in thinking about that kind of activity? One group of homeless men from another state even sang at the White House…..from Montreal to Atlanta and all in between, choirs have been started to give the men a sense of empowerment and dignity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITzh97mt7Ig“>Link to Homeless Shelter Singing Group
http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/12/world/iyw-homeless-choir/“>More…..singing homeless men in choral group

These comments was written by my friend Edie after she volunteered at the second party.

Movin’ it to Motown at The Open Arms shelter for homeless vets, 4122 Kensington Avenue. Kensington section of Philadelphia.

Was there at the invitation of Patricia Mohan Gallagher (The Angel Pin Lady and Flower Lady).I was moved by so many aspects of the day. One of the first things that had me in tears was that as we were carrying in boxes and bags of food, clothes, and flowers, one of the men let me know that I didn’t need to carry anything in since there were strong men to do it. I am learning to let men do things for me. I have been so accustomed to being independent.

I did a presentation on hugs and asked the men to remember the best hug they ever had. Then we did some love sprinkles and hugs. As we chatted afterward, a man named Adam, said “You know what my best hug was? The one I had with you.”

There was such a sense of community there. Not hierarchy. Not based on social strata. Just human beings relating.

They welcome donations of clothes, books, adult coloring books, crayons and entertainment.

My thoughts after our second party on March 11th.

The Open Arms shelter for homeless vets is located in a rough section of Philadelphia. 4122 Kensington Avenue. Kensington. No problem for us. Safe at noon. Parked right in front.

And the men raced out to help us carry things with open arms and open hearts. Real gentlemen. They were so glad to help us. Probably 7 men made 2 trips to the cars to carry the goodies in.

You know what I think it made them feel like? It made them feel like real men…..not the homeless men label…just men who were taught as young kids to help a lady, help your grandma…..there were NO BORDERS….we were all just friends having a wonderful time.

And we danced to Motown music, sang oldies and ate lots of sweets. We had a swell old time…..just a group of my FB friends and a group of new friends. We will go again after Easter. Thank you to everyone who donated clothes, treat bags, refreshments and your time. Wish you could have all been with us!

What a blessing this day was for us. We asked the men to write on a post-it note their keys to being positive, or what advice that they would give to a teenager……..and we taped them to the WISDOM WALL foam board.
1. Read to achieve. (Isaac said he finished a bio of Ben Franklin. Would love to read bios of famous people.)
2. You can achieve anything you put your mind to.
3. Go in the service.
4. Go to college.
5. Do the right thing.
6. Love one another.
7. Whenever you are feeling lost or panicky, call out to God.

Anybody know a sports figure that could come with us? And if you have any used Bibles laying around or sports magazines or sports books, clothes in large, extra large and extra extra large……..some medium size guys there too. These are some of the items on their wish list.

One guy wished for two dollars and then almost teared up as he apologized for even saying that. Contrite and sad tears. “I didn’t mean that, Ma’am. I should have never said that. I am so sorry.”

Thank you so much.

Our new friends……permission was given by our friends to share their pictures with FB friends. My favorite comment: “You ladies filled the HOLE in my heart.”

MY THOUGHTS AS I WAS PREPARING FOR THE PARTY:

My car is filled. Not even room to fit a toothpick. Irish potatoes, soda, clothes for vets, cakes, pies, chips, treat bags and warm socks placed in individual bags with smiley faces.

What is on the agenda for the FUN AND FREE Motown Magic Party for Vets at the shelter? A member of the popular band Wildflower is going to lead a Motown sing-a-long, going to teach 3 line dances – the Cupid Shuffle, Soul City Walking and the Electric Slide.

Edie is coming. She is known for founding the Hug Mobsters and the event Hugs Across America which was a grand success. So hugs for all.

Linda who made 3 beautiful afghans will be there with her sparkle for helping others. Kathy, Genia, Lynne and me.

Each man will get a bouquet of Trader Joe’s flowers. One guy said last time, “But I don’t have a sweetheart to give them to.” I answered, “Maybe you will find one tonight now that you have the flowers – in case you get invited to a prom – at the last minute.”

1. A friend donated clothes that belonged to her son who passed away. It was not easy to part with his things. A heartbroken mom reaching out to broken vets. I think her son is saying from above, “Thanks, Mom.” Clothes that will warm their bodies and their hearts.
2. Many people helped from the sidelines – dropping off lots of snacks. So many kind friends sprung into action.
3. I woke up with a scathingly brilliant idea …well actually….just another one of my crazy project ideas. In my mind I heard, “Trisha, go to the Dollar Tree and buy colorful post-it notes and red, yellow and blue stick pins.” So, I did just that. Then without even a modicum of artistic ability, I made a WALL OF WISDOM on a large piece of foam board. I will ask each guy to write his Keys for a Good Life, Tips about Attitude, Positive Sayings…..you get the idea……and hopefully, we will get everybody thinking and posting on the wall.
4. Another friend will bring her Dad’s clothing over. He passed and she thought that her sons would want his sport coats. She feels very emotional about his clothes…..but feels that this is the right group to donate to.
5. In the picture are some of the donations that I was “storing on my steps” – filled 12 steps with treats.

Thank you dear Friends. If you want to join us to serve the feast, sing and converse with the vets, just come to my place at 11 am tomorrow. Saturday. Car-pool has room for YOU!

This is the “easiest-ever” way to lift your own spirits. Call it a timeless way to feel good yourself….helping others helps you feel better too.

So grab a few friends and drive down to the Open Arms Transitional Housing, 4122 Kensington Avenue. Kensington section of Philadelphia. Safe to park right in front of the entrance door. Party starts at 1 pm.

EACH VET RECEIVED A TEAM OF ANGELS PIN AND POEM CARD

AND YES, EVEN VETS LOVE A BO

UQUET OF FLOWERS – DONATED BY TRADER JOE’S – Each man received a colorful bouquet that bloomed a smile! The flowers usually find their way to nursing homes and hospitals but they found a special military mission for these special vets.

And lots of beautiful blankets made and donated by my friends-42 afghans for 42 men!

And lots of other treats, cakes, pies and hygiene products too.

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