Voice of a Social Services Partner: Robert
Robert has been delivering important messages for a long time now, and we’re fortunate that his work has brought him back through the doors of Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. In the mid 1990’s Robert was a bike messenger in lower Manhattan and would “stop in pretty much every day for a hot meal” at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. By the year 2000 he had put in enough time – “8 hours a day on a bike!” – to merit moving up to a job as an indoor messenger, working within an office mailroom setting. Hard work has always been central to Robert’s life.
“My mother instilled a good work ethic in me,” he tells me. “You’ve got to put something into life in order to get something out of it!”
He was working hard and his employment steady when, in 2006, he was diagnosed with cancer. No longer able to work full time, Robert found himself without a job at all, his only focus on survival. That’s when he turned to Harlem United for support, which ultimately led to the part time job that brought him back to the steps of Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, helping today’s guests.
Robert says Harlem United Services was originally set up to help only people living with HIV access the help they need, but it has expanded its range of services to people with differing physical and mental health needs. His job is to get the message out about its day programs: from therapy to housing and health coordination. “I had to think of places where I could tell a lot of people about Harlem United, and Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen was always in the back of my mind,” he says.
Harlem United is just one of many agencies we invite into the soup kitchen daily to offer guests a way to connect with others who can offer them additional help to address specific needs. Robert is here in this capacity twice a month and though we serve over 1,000 meals every day he says he will be satisfied if he can reach “one person.”
“This place is an oasis in the middle of Manhattan,” Robert says, “People can eat all they want here, come back for seconds and anyone can use it. I know it’s made a big impact on people.”