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Seen in Florida: Human connection still beautiful

Mary Lawrence sends this picture and a note from St. Augustine, Florida, where the folks who've benefited from food for the homeless and hungry in park made a point of giving back. She writes:

About 5 months ago, the man who keeps track of the meals reported over 34,000 hot meals served so we are well over 50,000 by now. These groups show up, rain or shine, 365 days a year with home cooked food, utensils and drinks, plates, cups, napkins, all out of pocket. We also have over a dozen local restaurants donating pans of food as well. The homeless set up the chairs and tables. This idea of paying back came strictly from the homeless only subcommittee. They thought of it, planned the menu, solicited donations, pooled their own money and pulled it off for 75 people. All I did was buy the hats, make the sign and transport the things they couldn't. One man, in his 70's, had bike problems that morning so he walked 6 miles to the cookout to work the grill.

I've spent 6 years trying to break the stereotype of the homeless here and taken a lot of heat for it. The homeless subcommittee has met every 2 weeks for almost a year. We've met with local law enforcement to have respectful conversation on how to solve issues, we've met with housing agencies, we've met with (and got) a mobile medical van to come to one of our large servings and screen and refer people for medical problems. There's an outbreak of TB right now in Jacksonville (35 mi up the road) which is sure to trickle down to us so we're planning TB screenings as well. I have constantly been amazed and in awe of the resiliency and creativity of this population. I couldn't live in the woods here with the heat, the mosquitoes, the snakes and the constant fear of being rousted. The fact that our homeless have found their voice and dignity to be in a position to show this kind of gratitude is the kind of thing you want to see in your community. We still have the mental health/substance abuse issues that are rampant in the homeless community but now, with the human connections being made daily, we're working person to person to help each other. It's a beautiful thing. I am pretty connected with national homeless actions and have never seen anything like this.

St. Augustine's food program began as a Food Not Bombs operation and just kept going.

(Increase human happiness: Send us stuff.)