Bridges Outreach: Miracles in Manhattan (and elsewhere)

My good friend Joan Olszewski reached out to me the other day to tell me the Friday, June 8, Bridges Outreach run to Manhattan needed volunteers, “Let’s go,” she said.  The lunches were provided by Pimco, a dedicated corporate sponsor of Bridges, so all we needed were some bodies and the love necessary to offer food and fellowship to our street friends in New York City.

I went to first grade special education teacher Rebecca Sheasley at Washington Avenue School in Chatham and asked her to come up with a “love offering” from the beautiful children we teach together. Teachers, aides, and students bejeweled dozens of clothes pins to take to our friends as a special treat but the first pins went to the recently held Bridges annual meeting where they were gifted to former executive director Lois Bhatt and former deputy director Beth Tulloch. Both women wore the pins as they accepted tributes and gratitude from board members and volunteers for their many years of service. Our first graders were thrilled when I showed them the photos. The pins were also a big hit at Bridges new Manhattan stop where we see many families with young children.

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There were other miracles in Manhattan that night. One happened at our second Manhattan stop where we see fewer families and more single men. Joan’s friend Joe met us there with his dog Moonshine. I have met Joe several times and know a little of his history, including that he is a Marine. My older son, a Bridges Outreach veteran, is also a Marine so Joe and I always have lots to talk about. That night another gentleman, Arthur, noticed my Marines hat and asked me about it because he is also a Marine who suffered PTSD and currently lives in a shelter called Black Veterans for Social Justice. It was wonderful to be able to introduce Arthur to Joe and then to just stand back and listen to these two veterans talk to each other, share tips for dealing with the VA, compare experiences from their deployments, and just connect.

The other miraculous connection made that night happened in the Bridges van. Run coordinator Tobias was driving and chatting with Joyce, a volunteer that Joan brought with her. Wouldn’t you know, Tobias is the founder of Newark’s Science and Sustainability Program which includes community gardens and Joyce owns local Fairfield Farms! Joyce mentioned some extra flats of vegetable plants her farm couldn’t use and by the end of the night a donation was planned. As Joan said, “Love the way the universe works.”  Friday, June 8 was certainly a good night for the universe especially in the world of Bridges Outreach.