BY erin dinan "In early January of 2011, in Grand Central Station, I had an encounter with a homeless man that forever changed my life".
"Inside Grand Central Station, early January 2011, I had an encounter with a homeless man that forever changed my life. It was nearing 1am, and I was hurrying to catch the last train. I hadn't eaten all day and was starving, so although I was in a rush, I quickly popped into a café and bought a sandwich. Outside the café, I noticed a man who appeared to be homeless. He looked at me and asked if I had any food that I could share with him. Without thinking and still in a rush to catch the train, I gave him half of my sandwich. The look of gratitude in his eyes was a look that I will never forget.
That moment was a powerful one for me. The realization that I had helped another human being, by simply sharing a sandwich, made me realize the power of a simple action - one that I was fully capable of repeating. I decided that I wanted to help more individuals in this way - with my own two hands, but not only did I want to feed those in need, I also wanted those individuals to feel seen, not invisible, misunderstood, or alone.
Each day I packed individually wrapped sandwiches and would give them to homeless people. Some spoke with me. Others let me sit with them and told me their stories. There were those that did not, which I understood too. But regardless, they were all grateful for the food. I believe that the sandwiches fulfilled their basic need for food but also symbolized something much more powerful; they symbolized someone noticing them, seeing them.
'There is an incredible amount of stigma attached to homelessness. I often find that there are many that want to help but do not know how'.
I told my friends and family about my "sandwich project,” and they were very supportive. Word spread and others wanted to join in the effort. Along with my co-founder George Kontogiannis, we began gathering together in a kitchen to make sandwiches that were to be distributed to local shelters. Eight months later, we filed for 501c3 non-profit status and became One Sandwich at a Time, a certified non-profit with the mission to raise hunger and homeless awareness by encouraging others that they can make a difference with just their own two hands.
There is an incredible amount of stigma attached to homelessness. I often find that there are many that want to help but do not know how. With the power of the organization, we could change that. In addition to making sandwiches that are later distributed to local shelters and soup kitchens, we partner with schools, companies, residential buildings, and more to educate people about food insecurity. We have an amazing community of volunteers that believe in us and support us. To date, we have fed over 100,000 individuals in the New York Metro Area.
That chance encounter on that January night in 2011 was a brief one, but it is one that I am forever grateful for happening. The man I shared my sandwich that night was a catalyst for change. Because of him, I and others formed an organization to focus on the power of compassion and to make a difference using just our own two hands.”