It is so easy to overlook the people in this world who are quietly going about the business of being humanitarians in small ways. Oh sure, we notice the ones like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates who are pledging to give 50% or more of their lifetime earnings to charitable causes, and don’t get me wrong … I applaud them for what they do. But, they are noticed and given kudos, while the ones who do the small things like bring meals to homeless people, or rescue an animal are largely overlooked. In these Wednesday morning posts, I try to mix it up and present a few of those doing big things, but also those who are flying under the radar, so to speak. This morning, I would like to introduce you to two restaurant owners who are making a difference in people’s lives.
Juan Carlos Beristain is the owner of JC’s Café in Cary, Illinois. Although the café serves up desserts, coffee and all the other things you expect to find in such an establishment, his specialty is … soup. Dozens of different varieties of soup are enjoyed by the café’s patrons. But Mr. Beristain has another customer … one who cannot come to the Café.
Noah Dionesotes has multiple sclerosis and is undergoing chemotherapy. Noah had been a regular in Mr. Beristain’s café, loved his soups, but is now unable to visit the café. So, every week, sometimes several times a week, Juan Carlos Beristain loads up a number of containers of soup and delivers them to Noah Dionesotes’ home, free of charge.
“I really feel when other people are in pain. I felt that I could help him at least by delivering the soup that he likes, with the nutrition that is going to help him.”
For more than seven months, these special soup deliveries have provided more than just the nutrition that Noah needs to regain his strength. They’ve also led to a special bond between the two men. Noah described Juan Carlos as a warm, positive person who has become his best friend.
This, folks, is what it means to be human. What Juan is doing is a small thing, sure, but how many people go through their entire lives without doing this much to help another?
Her name is Ruth, and she is a mere mortal, but to many she is an angel. Ruth Henricks is the owner of The Huddle restaurant in San Diego, California. Her story begins back in 1989, during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. One of Ruth’s most frequent customers was a lanky young man named Scott, who came in for a meal every day. As Ruth came to know Scott, he confided in her that he was dying of AIDS and that he had become too weak to cook for himself …
“When I come in, I’m greeted by everyone. They know my name, and they pat me on the back and ask how it’s going today – no matter how I look. I’m so grateful for you and the homecooked meals. I depend on you for my meals, Ruth. If I’m not at The Huddle, you’ll know I’m not eating.”
And, of course, the day came when Scott no longer came to The Huddle. It was then that Ruth was talking to another customer, a doctor, about Scott, and the doc had a suggestion. He said Ruth could put a note on the cash register, offering to deliver meals to people with AIDS. She did, and the response was overwhelming. Ultimately, Ruth, the doctor, and a group of supporters started a non-profit called Special Delivery San Diego. Most of her original volunteers were her customers, and they started out delivering around 75 meals per day to AIDS patients.
Eventually, Ruth and Special Delivery expanded their services to provide meals to people with other illnesses, including cancer, kidney disease and other debilitating, chronic diseases. To-date, Special Delivery has served more than 6,000 people and prepared more than 1 million meals for them.
Clients are referred by social workers or doctors and receive three meals, five days a week. Many recipients are bedbound; some are living below the poverty line. According to one of their meal recipients, Alden Steffens …
“I can’t cope on my own. I can’t cook. I’m just drained. I probably would be dead if it wasn’t for Special Delivery and the food. It’s a joy every day when they ring the bell. It’s instant healing, even if you were sick five minutes before. They smile, and they treat you like a wonderful equal.”
In the early years, around 1993, one of the recipients of the Special Delivery meals was a young man named Rob. Rob had served in the Navy in the early 1980s and when he later found he had AIDS, his family disowned him. According to Ruth, “When we started feeding him, we became his family.” When Rob died, Ruth discovered that Rob had left a $25,000 life insurance policy to Special Delivery to help keep the program going.
But Hendricks’ efforts don’t stop with only the food deliveries, for as she became more aware of her community, she began to see other needs. She opened a food pantry, which now benefits roughly 800 families a month. While running that pantry, Henricks found that many people had diabetes. So, she started a program tailored to their dietary needs, complete with a weekly nutrition class and free diabetic-friendly groceries.
Whew! Did I mention that Ruth is 75 years of age? Says Ruth …
“I have been very fortunate to attract the most loving, caring, hardworking volunteers. We share each other’s joys, sorrows. We feel good about what we’re doing. And it is a family. I have a few volunteers who are still with me from the day we started Special Delivery. And a lot of times I say, ‘Why do you keep coming back?’ And they say, ‘Well, we really believe in what we’ve created here.’
I’ve promised everyone that the diabetic program will be the last program, but I didn’t know there was going to be anything beyond the pantry, so we’ll see what comes. If we see some type of a food insecurity need in the community, we’re going to try and fix it. I can’t promise that everyone in San Diego will be able to eat tonight. But we’re going to try our best to feed the people in our corner of the world.”
I’ve got to give a two thumbs-up to Ruth and all her volunteers … 👍👍
I hope these stories helped to remind you that there are good people out there, silently operating behind the scenes to help others. They don’t advertise, they don’t toot their own horns … they simply do.