Giving Thanks with Project Feed NYC
The night before Thanksgiving is a busy time in many American households. Preparing for family meals and passionate political debates can be a tiring, if not all-consuming, task. For thousands of New Yorkers, however, the night before Thanksgiving is a night like any other. For them, it’s just another night of struggling to put food on the table or a roof over their head.
This reality was brought home to me this past Thanksgiving eve through an event organized by the Project Feed NYC club here at Yeshiva, founded and headed by Stern College senior Maayan Hirschkorn (SCW ‘23). “The goal of this club is to give back to the less fortunate in our communities,” Hirschkorn said. This initiative brought together a dozen YU students to help serve Thanksgiving dinner at the homeless shelter on East 32nd St.. Personally, it was my first time volunteering at a homeless shelter, and I found the experience to be especially meaningful and rewarding.
Upon arrival, we were given aprons and hair nets and began to sort out some utensils and assorted food. This process was made all the more lively by the colorful anecdotes supplied by some of our fellow non-YU volunteers. An older man named George had lots of fun telling us about his many trips abroad and sharing wisdom learned from his varied life experiences.
Soon, people from all walks of life began streaming into the dining hall. In no time at all, every seat was filled. Standing in the middle of the hall, one could hear many languages being spoken at once — many histories, both personal and cultural, meeting in one place. Of course, some arrivals were regulars. They came not only for the food but also for the camaraderie, the sense of community that the shelter provides.
As the room filled, we began to take orders and serve the food. With hundreds of people pouring in over the course of the night, the hall had a wild and exciting atmosphere. Servers ran back and forth with orders in hand, squeezing through the shifting crowd. Throughout the night, many people from the surrounding community came to volunteer. Notably, popular rapper Fivio Foreign made an appearance.
A few tables were taken up by families with young children. These families brought back memories of my own family’s Thanksgiving meals throughout the years. The ability to provide a similar moment of rest and bonding for these families felt uniquely special.
The hours spent serving went by pretty fast. One moment led into the next as apple juices were traded for cups of water, and plates of turkey were carried over heads and in between strangers. The crowd eventually began to thin as people started heading back to their regular lives. When the night had come to a close, we had served Thanksgiving dinner to nearly two hundred people.
In some ways, the shelter and its patrons represent a tragic state of the world. Life can be unforgiving. Alone, people can get lost. Lost, they may end up forgotten — ignored and invisible to a world that has left them behind. But in another sense, a place like this reminds us of our responsibility. That it is we who are doing the forgetting. That it is our ability to remember, to choose to see the lonely and invisible, and to be there for them always that matters above all.
The Project Feed NYC club continues to organize similar events on a weekly basis. You can sign up to volunteer in the midtown soup kitchen located on East 32nd St. or at a soup kitchen in the Heights on West 181st St.. For those on the Wilf campus, Hirschkorn wants you to “stay tuned because big things are in the works for the Heights.”