I have a crazy friend Renee.
When they first moved to Las Vegas, they were so compelled to do something about the homelessness and poverty that plagued their new home that they drove around and gave out meals from their car.
Then she offered to help with the City Mission.
Before you knew it, she was providing care packages, homemade cookies, etc etc to nearly 1,000 homeless people.
She coordinated with some local businesses, but in general, she did nearly all of it on her own.
I told you she was crazy.
She has a group of friends from her Bunko group, her husband Dave and her sister Lynette (also a fantastic crazy person) who help. And she gets me involved from time to time.
This is how she got me to get involved this year:
In November I get this call:
"Hey, I know you're into all this charitable shit, so you're helping me serve dinner to 300 people at the Casa de Luz down behind the Stratosphere. Okay, here's what I need you to do...."
Did I mention she's from the Bronx?
So since yes, I am into charitable shit, I said sure. Sorta. I think I said sure. To be honest, we were not going to be in town this weekend, but hey, all plans are adjustable, right?
I played a VERY small role in this event. I cooked a few turkeys, as did many of the other people. I made some broth. I bought some dressing and way too much cranberry sauce. I put out the info to my friends. Donna made the corn (which turned oddly to be a HUGE hit on the seconds-- many people passed on the first round, only to come back for giant quantities!). Shana, Tessa, Caroline and Jan all showed up to help. Kari and her company Retro Bakery, made 300 cupcakes.
Renee did cookie bags. She made the gravy FROM SCRATCH. The stuffing, too. She made these amazing sweet potatoes over the past month with a whiskey sauce. She made creamy mashed potatoes from scratch. For a month she's been peeling, mashing, baking, slicing, dicing-- all for a meal for people who were used to potatoes from a box, processed turkey, stuffing from a box-- institutionalized soup kitchen meals. Not to knock the meals- I appreciate they need to make the most of very little--but everything was HOMEMADE.
Her theory is that just because you're homeless, doesn't mean you need to eat crap.
She also stepped it up a notch and provided table service, rather than the degrading food line.
Even better was watching Renee interact with the people we were there to serve. One gentleman was throwing a fit because he didn't want to wait. Rather than be put off (I was ready to clock the guy), she put her arm around him and got him a plate. He came back for seconds and then thirds and was an entirely different, gracious man.
It wasn't the food. It was the kindness. But I should also point out, the food was insanely good, too. The woman can cook.
She also coordinated with the Venetian and Palazzo for the coat drive, the blankets, the toiletry bags... and on and on and on and on.
My favorite line of the day was from the very skinny man who was clearly an alcoholic. He had a HUGE smile-- you could tell he appreciated that the food was homemade- and he said while getting his third plate "This fills me up way more than Bartles & James!" And he thanked us.
So today I worked at a mission in the worst part of town. And I was reminded that the person's who birth we celebrate this week was really on to something. We fed the poor in the parking lot of a muffler and tire shop- coordinated by one person- not an agency. Not by a huge mega church in a multi-million dollar facility that spends more time preaching about the word of God than doing anything remotely related to making the world a better place. Yes, the pastor blessed everyone, but that was about it for the preaching. No judgments. No doctrine other than kindness.
After all, isn't being kind and loving one another what it's all about?
It is to me.
And I have to say, as I watched Renee and all my friends interact with the people whose lives had taken a different turn for whatever reason, I felt like the richest woman in the world- with friends like this, I will never be alone.
For more information on Casa de Luz, please click here.