To the Editor:
Dear Bridges Donors:
My family was so happy to go on our first Bridges Outreach run since the organization reopened to volunteers. Normally I have a crew of a dozen or so but currently, Bridges is encouraging same household only groups, so we were three-plus run coordinators (Bridges’ employees) Dave and Emma. We knew we could handle it and that more volunteers would meet us on-site, but we were daunted by the idea of buying the food for and making the 200 lunches that came with our run sign up.
Thank you to the families who contributed, each pledging and delivering 24 complete lunches during our drop off window at Stanley Congregational Church. The lunches were beautiful, carefully crafted with each bag decorated with encouraging phrases and cheerful drawings. Our lunches joined a huge donation from St. Vincent de Paul plus more from volunteers who met us in Newark.
Dave Dawson explained how the run would be just a little different from pre-pandemic days. We all wore masks and gloves. We did not hand out soup or lemonade because that brings people too close to each other. We served our friends experiencing homelessness from behind tables, with food, toiletries, and men’s and women’s t-shirts in bins.
The Martin Luther King Boulevard stop went smoothly. I chose to walk down the line handing out bags. Most of our friends were also wearing masks and it felt pretty safe. I chatted with George, a gentleman with impaired vision I have met on many runs. Usually one of Bridges’ core volunteers escorts George through the line but these volunteers are also just trickling back so today I took on this duty. George told me that he had been tested for Covid-19 several times, each time negative, which is good because he has diabetes and other health concerns that put him at risk. George’s mood was bright, but I was sorry to hear that he felt his vision had further decreased and was hoping to see a doctor.
One of our lunch donors sent her sandwiches in a heavy-duty reusable shopping bag. These are treasures to folks experiencing homelessness who struggle to tote their belongings in flimsy plastic grocery bags. I wanted to gift the bag but I had to do it discreetly because I only had one. Then I spotted “Lovey,” a mother with a young daughter nicknamed “Muffin.” We transferred their items into the sturdy bag, and she looked much more comfortable.
Our friends were able to go through the line twice before we packed up. This is a real testament to you and to the other volunteers who came out today because we saw a lot of people. We brought the remaining donations to a shelter we have visited before but are now not allowed to enter. We alerted the staff and left the items just outside the door. The Malatestas loved being back on the street with our friends, and we couldn’t have done it without you.
Lucy Malatesta and family — Bridges Outreach Run Leader (and family)