November 23rd, 2015 | By Alicia Silverstone
I came across kind lifer Michelle’s story and wanted to share it with you all. This lady and her son are amazing! We volunteered with them while we were in NYC .
Here are some words from Christopher on his experience:
Bear and I had a wonderful time volunteering for Chilis on Wheels. Our role was to notify people in the park that there was free chili available and relay its location. Ollie, the founder’s son, would come with us too. Sometimes Bear would be the messenger but at times when he was shy, I would. If I ever forgot to mention the chili was vegan, he would shout “it’s vegan!!” Everyone was so grateful!
After spreading the chili word, we would head back to the stand. Later on, we would get some vegan ice cream right across from Tompkins Square park. We had a great experience volunteering with Chili on Wheels, thank you Michelle, Ollie, and team for your dedication and compassionate work.
Over to Michelle for more information on her wonderful organization:
How Chilis on Wheels Came to Be!
“Pass me a bowl, please”, I say with a ladle filled with vegan chili in one hand. Ollie, my four year old son stands on a chair and diligently hands me the empty plastic bowl as he lines up 20 bowls next to the stove. This is a typical Saturday morning at my house, as we get ready to distribute 70+ vegan chili to the homeless and the community.
We are Chilis on Wheels, and we provide vegan chili to those in need of a warm meal. Every Saturday we cook and distribute meals to the community in lower Manhattan. In New York City alone, 60,000 people sleep in shelters on a given night. 60,000! Let that number sink in. In America, 1 in 6 people struggle with hunger. Out of all the soup kitchens, none of them are vegan or vegetarian and surprisingly, most of them close on the weekends.
It all started on Thanksgiving of last year, as I sought for a vegan soup kitchen to volunteer in for the holiday. My google search turned up zero results. I decided to cook chili at home and distribute it ourselves. What stayed with me the most, to this day, is how fast people eat when they are hungry.
I realized I had to do more. One day a year was not enough. And so it became a monthly endeavor, and now a weekly one. And now we have emerging chapters in San Diego, Portland, Denver, and Puerto Rico (and more on the way).
To fund initial set up I held a crowdfunding campaign. We also received a seed grant from the Pollination Project, and A Well Fed World. But for the most part we depend on individual donations to help us pay for the cost of food and water in our chapters. We also recently added a component to our program that distributes vegan dog-food to homeless people with dogs. Dogs are a source of emotional stability, companionship, and security to people that live in the streets, and we are happy to say that we feed whole families.
We serve several people who are vegetarian and vegan who are experiencing extreme hardship, including Chris, a Rastafarian who we look for every week because of his friendly and positive demeanor. Antonio, who speaks at length of the effect of a diet free of violence in the behavior of inner city kids. John, who lives with his street family including his dog. “The Chili Ladies” they call us, proof that we are now an integral part of the community, affectionately received, but we are always trying to do more. Our goal is to set up a vegan community food hub where we can serve daily vegan meals and also hold cooking and nutrition classes for the community and show people that being vegan is less expensive and also better for health, the environment, the animals, and each other. We need your help to make this happen! For starters, we need a kitchen!
“Are we done giving out the chili, mama? I ran out of waters” asks Ollie as he eyes the swings in the playground. We are done for today, but we are just getting started.
Volunteer, make a donation, share with your friends… help us dish out compassion!