This is part 1 of the Post Project Food Blog - What's Next? Series. It's based off of the speech I gave at the Foodbuzz Festival in November (2011) when I explained what I was doing with my Project Food Blog winnings.
I feel really, really blessed.
Winning Project Food Blog was an incredible experience, something I will never forget.
For a number of reasons, as the weeks of Project Food Blog went by and I continued to advance, I became more and more convinced that if I won the entire contest, I wanted to give the money away to those in need.
I grew up sheltered in the quiet, leafy suburbs of Ohio. It wasn't until I moved to Boston that I started to see homeless people on a regular basis. My commute to work involves two subway stations, both of which have needy people asking for help on a daily basis.
I struggled as I walked by these sad and hungry people day-in and day-out. Some days, I would dig up some change to give to one individual. On a rare occasion, I tried buying a sandwich for someone. Most days, however, I just walked on by, muttering "sorry" to those pleas for help.
It broke my heart to say no to so many people, but I couldn't logically figure out a way to help that seemed fair. Do I give money to everyone? If not, how do I choose? What if they use the money for "bad" purposes? Why am I even trying to be the judge? What right do I have to decide who's "good" and who's bad?
Fast forward to about one year ago, close to the time when Project Food Blog was just kicking off.
First, my a cappella singing group began singing at the Boston Rescue Mission, an organization in Boston dedicated to helping various types of people in need. They feed the hungry, house the homeless, and provide support for those with addiction problems. We sang regularly during their Friday evening worship services.
While we were there, we heard inspiring testimonies from current and former residents of the Boston Rescue Mission (BRM). People shared about how their lives had been changed through the programs at BRM. Men who once neglected their families, trapped by the grips of alcohol, became clean and sober, dedicating their lives to God and their families. The stories were tremendously moving. More than once I found myself holding back tears, marveling at how much these men had overcome.
Second, I started volunteering at BRM's Sunday Community Dinner. I'll explain more in a future post, but essentially, you sign up to provide dinner at BRM on a Sunday afternoon. You design the menu, shop for the ingredients, and cook the food in their tiny urban kitchen (see how crowded we are?).
I was able to see how the Boston Rescue Mission "heals" people in multiple ways. Through their shelter and meal programs, they physically feed the homeless as well as the residents. Through their various addiction programs, they psychologically help clients battle and overcome serious addiction problems. Through the Friday night services and other related ministries, they spiritually nourish the residents.
Finally, through studying the Bible, I began to learn more about Jesus's example and how much he cared about the poor. I knew that this was a segment of the population that I absolutely could not ignore. I started to seriously consider donating the money if I won.
As the weeks went by and I continued to advance in Project Food Blog, I became more and more convinced of this idea. At some points, I almost didn't want to win, afraid that I wouldn't be able to stand up to my commitment.
Thankfully, by the grace of God, I continue to have a passion and commitment to supporting the work at the Boston Rescue Mission. I'm excited about giving away the prize money, and I'm committed to trying to raise more money to continue supporting the great work that they are doing.
I would love it if you would partner with me.
Here's just a few ideas. Participate in the 20/20 Get Together Give Together campaign, where once a month, instead of eating out with friends, get together for a home cooked meal and donate $20 each to a charity. Consider donating a portion (or all!) of your blog earnings this holiday season to a charity. Instead of exchanging holiday gifts with friends or coworkers, donate the money you would have spent.
Of course, I'd be thrilled if you donated to the Boston Rescue Mission, but I'd be equally happy if you gave to another charity that serves the needy.
Current donations to the Tiny Urban Kitchen Fundraiser are hovering a little over $200, so I have a ways to go before my goal of $10,000 (!). Thanks so much to those of you who have donated already. I sincerely, sincerely appreciate it.
To donate, click on the image below and check the box for "Tiny Urban Kitchen Fundraiser."
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