Already in action, Angelmobile gets ribbon-cutting ceremony
Clergy and Civic Leaders Gather at Brodsky Trailer To Dedicate Mobile Soup Kitchen
North Brooklyn’s favorite power couple fired up the barbecues on North 10th Street and Kent Avenue. But on this occasion the bocce court behind Norm and Elaine Brodsky’s venerable trailer sat with no players because more serious business was afoot.
The North Brooklyn Angels on June recently dedicated their Angelmobile, a 31-foot NYC DOH compliant mobile soup kitchen and social service help center. Because of the urgency, the Angelmobile had already begun operations before the dedication ceremony.
The Angelmobile is designed to traverse the streets of North Brooklyn, providing essential services for people in the community who have not benefitted from gentrification and rising property values.
Capital funding for the Angelmobile was provided by Norm and Elaine Brodsky, in partnership with the Episcopal Ministries of Long Island, based on a concept developed by North Brooklyn Neighbors Helping Neighbors co-founders Neil Sheehan, Executive Vice President of Outreach and the Reverend John Merz, Vicar of Church of the Ascension in Greenpoint.
“Everyone who shows up gets served,” explained Brooklyn Angel volunteer, Laura Flugger, a neonate nurse practitioner. “As long as we have food. There aren’t any needs testing.”
“Our first day we started with about forty meals,” driver and Angelmobile Coordinator Ted Neuman recalled. Rather than wait for its formal dedication, the Angelmobile had been put to use right away. “Then we doubled our servings to seventy-five. Our goal is at least two hundred meals per stop,” Neuman added.
Fashioned in Riverside, California, the truck is designed to carry and serve food, but not cook it. There are steam tables, hot beverage urns and storage units on board, but only a single microwave oven for heating food. A small office where residents might receive help with housing, job or school applications occupies the front. The entire unit is a mobile WiFi hotspot. The truck is rated to serve up to 800 meals per day.
“The food is supplied and prepared by St John’s Bread and Life,” explained Brooklyn Angels Volunteer Coordinator Pat McDonald.
“We’ll have a volunteer stand outside,” said Flugger, “take a tray from another volunteer inside the van and pass it on to the recipient.”
Brochures with the truck’s schedule will be distributed throughout its target neighborhoods, giving community coordinators the option to set up tables and chairs outside for people to sit down and eat. At the same time residents will always have the option to take their meals back inside their homes if they prefer.
Several clergy participated in an interfaith blessing of the Angelmobile. Participating faith leaders included the Right Reverend Lawrence Provenzano, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese Long Island; Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Israel; Fr. John Merz of Church of the Ascension in Greenpoint; the Rev. Nell Archer of Bushwick Abbey and Iglesia Santa Cruz; Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. Elaine and Norm Brodsky joined Angelmobile visionaries, Neil Sheehan, the clergy and Bishop Provenzano in cutting the ceremonial ribbon to mark the truck’s official commission.
“We are commanded to love our neighbor,” Rabbi Riskin said later. “And we are all each other’s neighbor. When we show acts of love to one another, we are truly angels of God.”
Added Bishop Provenzano: “This truck and the work it will do is a sacrament. It’s an expression of God’s love, and I’m thrilled that our diocese gets to be a part of it.”
“There’s no free dinner,” Norm Brodsky admonished. “Enjoy your burgers and hot dogs, but we have to keep this going, and your giving inspires people like us to give more.”
“Neil [Sheehan] had the idea,” Elaine Brodsky explained later, describing the genesis of the Angelmobile. “We’ve been friends for a long time, so naturally he brought it to us.”
“We looked at the neighborhood,” wrote Sheehan in a pre-commission release, “and saw gentrification causing friction among the residents, to the detriment of all. Our goal is to engage people to work together across physical and social boundaries to serve and advocate for the needs of the most vulnerable.”
“Not to mention that if things go bad, I’ll always have a place to eat!” said Norm Brodsky with a grin.
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