Remember when you were little and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was put inside of your lunch box for school? It's amazing how something so simple could satisfy the grumbling tummies of energetic elementary schoolers everywhere. They serve as the perfect after-recess meal or even the ideal field-trip brown bag lunch.
Or a sustainable, time-convenient meal for someone who is homeless.
Here at M.A.D. Club, we're no strangers to the magic of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In fact, the first activity M.A.D. Club ever did back in 2015 was create over 120 brown bag PB&J sandwich meals, complete with a snack and something to drink, for the West Side Catholic Center --- an activity that occurs monthly at the St. Bartholomew Chapter to this day! This project is easy and fun, and on Monday, February 26th, volunteers at the Gilmour Academy Chapter were able to experience it along with guest speaker, Carl Cook.
Cook is the lead volunteer coordinator of St. Malachi Center in Cleveland. St. Malachi Center is unique to other Cleveland organizations that benefit the homeless in the way that it is not a "shelter"; rather, it is a "center". Many who are homeless are defined as "shelter resistant", meaning they avoid staying at shelters for long periods of time or overnight and refuse to accept help. This specific group purely lives on the streets at all times. However, in times of frigid weather, rain, or snow, they need some sort of relief, and this is where St. Malachi Center comes in. St. Malachi Center opens its doors to serve as a warmth center, where the shelter-resistant homeless can find temporary refuge and receive necessities before returning to the streets. The center also offers education to "break the cycle" of homelessness and guiding those who visit there to be more self-reliant through a series of workshops and classes.
Cook visited with Gilmour Academy volunteers and discussed the connection between getting into homelessness and getting out of homelessness. Cook explained to volunteers, "My business is not to change the world. My business is to build relationships." He continued by saying the first step to helping anyone in his line of work is to build a relationship and trust. This process can be started by doing something as simple as providing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Once he was done speaking and interacting with the volunteers, our team set to work on building the meals. Less than an hour later, we prepared over 190 brown bag meals ready for Cook to take back to the center. He exclaimed, "That's 190 relationships built today!"
Going forward, the Gilmour Academy Chapter plans on doing this activity more often -- another simple way to make a difference!