Note: On June 23 2018, Food For Friends sponsored a serving event at The Ewing Annex Hotel in Chicago. We sponsor a number of serving events each year at the Annex Hotel . For the past few years, Lee ‘n Eddies catering has partnered with FFF by covering half of the cost of these meals. We are grateful to Lee ‘n Eddies for this partnership.
Below please find a fantastic recap from Dane Hiteman, who coordinated this serving event for Food For Friends. The board of directors of Food For Friends wish to thank Dane and the volunteer serving team for making the time to serve those in need,… Chicago men who have fallen on hard times, those forgotten or cast out. For more pictures from the event, see our Facebook album
On Saturday, June 23rd, the Food For Friends crew arrived at the Annex Hotel, an inn that provides reasonably priced shelter for working men. The hotel has the ability to host between 150 and 200 guests an evening. The corridor-style building consists of rows of individual rooms, approximately 8 feet by 5 feet. Each room has a small cot and lockable door. In an article by The Columbia Enquirer, the owner Randy Cohen was quoted as saying, “A lot of the people up there are poor and they really appreciate the services we can provide them,” Cohen said. “And other people up there are lonely. Some people have been there for years. It’s a community and for some people, it’s a better life than living alone.”
Up a steep flight of stairs, past a steel security door and a fenced hotel front desk, is a small TV room with about 25 industrial lunchroom chairs lined up for ease of viewing. The tall ceilinged room was painted a basic beige and had various decorations scattered about the room. The Food For Friends volunteers, with the assistance of Manager Mike (see picture of him wearing the Sox shirt and all black hat), prepped the serving area by locating and setting up three food serving tables. Next, we received the inbound catering at street level and shuffled it up the staris with help from a few of the guests. Because of the condensed serving size we had to stage the food in replenishment waves.
Our crew, with very little direction, set up shop in a matter of 25 minutes. The men began forming a line at the back of the room against the windows. We had large foil trays of fried chicken, mac and cheese, bratwurst and sausage, slices of fresh watermelon, and hotdogs. For dessert, strawberry jello and fancy fudge brownies. The room was full of the smell of tasty food and the friends that were eager to eat.
Manager Mike fetched a guest that is known for delivering prayers before meals. Minutes later, with the TV (that Food For Friends donated!) silenced and all heads in the room bowed, words of thanks and blessings were delivered amongst all in attendance. The same gentleman was also not bashful in the hugging department. It set almost a quiet and peaceful tone for the rest of the food service. The Food For Friends for friends crew asked the guests to wait for seconds, but enjoy their firsts. With that said, “let’s eat”!
Men filtered through the line of all ages. Some looked like they may have just gotten off of work, while others were in worse physical and mental conditions unable to support themselves or their families. All were happy to be in line and not have the worry of where the next meal was coming from or how much it might cost them. As the food service progressed the line stayed consistently wrapped around the room. Men who had already received their food were sitting and chatting away with each other. It was obvious that some hadn’t seen each other for days or weeks.
One man, carrying a Tupperware dish (actually quite a few had these for keeping their seconds for later), said that his wife and daughter were over at an all-women’s hotel blocks away. He was proud of them because they were just accepted into a program to get them back on their feet and supporting themselves in a small apartment in the near future. Another man was telling everyone that his daughter just turned 1 last week. This hotel was very much a community and a safe place for those in need.
The food service lasted about 90 minutes and was just enough to serve everyone and a third of them again. Stragglers were given renewed hope as a local Masons order had just arrived and were talking about taking over the same space to serve dinner. As the Food For Friends Crew packed up to depart, Manager Mike thanked us for our time and generosity. We thanked him and everyone else in the room for allowing us into their lives and home to serve them. With that, we walked down the long flight of stairs back out to the sunlit street. But, just before exiting out of the building, above the door hung a sign, “Life doesn’t come with a remote. You have to get up and change it yourself”.
Thanks for giving us the opportunity to be the tools used to administer these meals provided by Food For Friends and Lee ‘n Eddies.
Dane Hiteman, Food For Friends volunteer