A Gift of Compassion From the Pacific Palisades Ministerial Association Brown Bag Brigade

Submitted by the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness and Glanda Sherman Outreach Team, The People Concern

The year was 2017. The Pacific Palisades Ministerial Association accepted an invitation to meet and discuss how they could support the efforts of the Outreach Team. The group agreed to provide 20 lunches twice a week to the team. Carol Sanborn and others collaborated and a blueprint was created. The effort, time, and commitment of this body of volunteers got the wheels rolling and the Brown Bag Brigade was established. Today, the Brown Bag Brigade has approximately 40 volunteers from various faith-based organizations and several families who assemble and deliver lunches to the Outreach Team. Despite the fact that this body of volunteers do not accompany us during outreach, we carry with us their spirit of compassion. 

A sack lunch, a gift of compassion prepared by the members of the Brown Bag Brigade, is often used as an ice breaker when meeting a client for the first time, especially when that person is hungry. One client remarked “tell them this was the best meal I had all day.” The lunches therefore provide an opportunity:

  1. To build a relationship between the client and the Outreach Team;
  2. To give a valuable resource to those that are hungry; and
  3. For the Outreach Team to experience the “true generosity” of the Brown Bag Brigade.

The lunches are distributed by the Outreach Team to those on the street, regardless of who they are and whatever state of mind they are in–they receive a lunch. No one is denied something to eat. The standard PB&J (Peanut Butter and Jelly) is good in a pinch for individuals with diet restrictions. This food exchange between the client and the Outreach Team is never “quid pro quo.” Everyone is offered a lunch whether or not they accept or decline services.

The lunches give a new meaning to the term “meeting people where they are.” Homeless individuals vary in their abilities to locate and obtain food. They differ on how to cope with the stress caused by being unhoused and their need to eat. For example, one person might know the day, time and location of free meals and can get to these locations because of adequate transportation. They can utilize Access/Drop-in Centers and shelters to get multiple meals. On the other hand, homeless individuals in campsites/encampments might consider it risky business to leave their site to get food. They might return to discover all of their belongings stolen. Furthermore, an individual’s physical or mental health can encumber their ability to obtain food.

The Brown Bag Brigade is a difference maker. In 1929, during “The Great Depression,” soup kitchens were operated by churches and private charities. Fast forward to 2022, the faith-based organizations are still doing this type of work. Since 2017, the Brown Bag Brigade has prepared approximately 8,000 lunches. This one body of volunteers came together with a common goal, achieving the power of unity with each person doing their part. The Outreach Team says Thank You for their amazing contribution of feeding others. For through this process, the Brown Bag Brigade may have entertained an “Angel.”

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