The Bridges "Love Letter" is an over 10-year tradition started to make sure that every part of a Bridges Outreach run, from the donation of a pound of turkey to the decorating of a bag is acknowledged. The letter takes every participant on the road with the crew to know where that food goes and that every one involved is essential.

December 3, 2016

Dear Chatham Cross Country, Brownie Troop 6190, Washington Avenue School artists and Stanley Family:

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Back from last night’s blustery, wind chill below freezing Bridges Outreach run; time to write my “love letter.”

It takes a lot of food, organization, and love to deliver 300 brown bag lunches to our homeless friends in Manhattan. This time the food came almost exclusively from Chatham Cross Country team families; 38 pounds of sliced turkey, 300 each of granola bars, fruit, cheese sticks and drinks were delivered to Stanley Congregational Church, where the team turned them into lunches in under an hour! These runners are fast at everything.

Organization comes from many sources; first and foremost, Summit based Bridges Outreach who haven’t missed a Friday night in Manhattan in 28 years when founders Geoff and Ginger Worden first brought sandwiches to friends under the Brooklyn Bridge. Bridges provides professional staff and groundwork that make this very easy.

Organization came from Chatham coaches Patrick Barry and Stephanie Frost who forwarded all the food sign ups and from Brownie Troop 6109 leaders and Washington Avenue School’s Kenji Hasegawa who provided materials and opportunities to decorate lunch bags; and this is where the love began.

I never thought the decorated bags were a necessity, more of a luxury and a fun way for younger kids to be involved. Then my friend Joan, a Bridges core volunteer who goes on runs almost weekly, showed me a photo. The photo shows a homeless friend, a man who carefully saved the artwork from decorated bags and turned them into a poster on scrap cardboard. Our young Brownies and WAS friends drew beautiful pictures and wrote messages including, “Love, I hope you stay warm, safe and happy and You Matter,” for Joan’s friend and for all of us, love matters.

The love went into the food and traveled to Manhattan with our crew of fourteen runners and church members. We ferried cups of hot chocolate and chicken noodle soup to homeless friends who lined up by the 34th Street Heliport. We handed out lunches and long sleeved shirts and joked together about folks who were fishing in the East River and whether we would EVER eat anything we caught. The crowd was a mixture of languages, skin color and age, mostly men. At stop two near the Staten Island Ferry we saw more women and 10-year-old Brianna who immediately came over to help serve hot chocolate. This stop has friends we see every year, their homelessness caused in part by mental health struggles. John had college advice for our teens Laura and Paul; told Laura to keep an open mind about different people. King was looking a little too skinny and very cold. I held his lunches and coat for him while he layered on the new hoodie Bridges gave out at this stop. I also gave him my gloves. I can get more.

Bridges Outreach teaches all of us in how to care for others. The younger we start, the more it becomes who we are. Thank you everyone for making this possible!

Love,  Lucy Malatesta