On the Street with YES! Solutions

By: Martin Torres, Dean of LaSalle Hall

The holidays are a time for celebration, family and warmth–both literally and figuratively. Every year, Boys Hope Girls Hope of New York volunteers with Sister Mary Lanning, Founder of YES! Solutions, a versatile, grass-roots, neighbor-to-neighbor service organization based in New York City, for Holiday-on-the-street events for people in need throughout Harlem. These events take place on the same corner in Harlem each year around Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving. Sister Mary says that these holidays are the days where no one should be alone and not feel the warmth of kindness, generosity, and human connection. These annual events are a celebration of our shared humanity.

The “on-the-street” events are opportunities for our community to provide warmth and happiness. On Thanksgiving eve, we pull an all-nighter in a large, upscale kitchen preparing over a thousand meals for the community at the direction of professional chefs. We bake bread and pies, chop spices and herbs, season and smoke full turkeys, make stuffing, whip our own whipped cream and by hand create all the rest of the trimmings. For Christmas, we collect blankets and other warm clothing items with our annual clothing drive, in addition to preparing hundreds of gourmet pastrami sandwiches with sweet honey mustard on raisin rye bread from the NYC famous, Katz Deli. For Valentine’s Day, the warm clothing drive includes a seemingly peculiar tradition: we prepare, color and paint hundreds of hard boiled eggs with messages of love and encouragement.

People often ask, “why hard-boiled eggs at Valentine’s Day?” Sister Mary told the story that one year, she unexpectedly received hundreds of eggs from an eager volunteer the evening before an on-the-street event. She had to hurry to figure out what to do with all of the eggs, and thus the tradition was born. Passersby often notice the vibrant colors which attracts more attention to the welcoming, family-like environment we seek to create for everyone within the community, especially those most in need. You can see how the guests on the line light up to see a brightly colored egg with a kind message on it. Not to mention that they can take up to a few dozen eggs as a treat. Passing out multi-colored, hard-boiled eggs on a Harlem corner in the middle of February is a great example of the on-the-street events and the YES! Solutions mission: We make do with what we have, and we make it the best that it can be for others.

Boys Hope Girls Hope of New York scholars have been an integral part of these events over the past few years. Dozens of our scholars volunteer for each event to provide labor and set-up assistance along with spirit, joy, and kindness. Our scholars aim to assist in any way that they can: scholar artists draw and paint the decorations with the children in attendance, while the performers sing and dance their hearts out to the delight of the visitors waiting in the line. Our high-energy scholars shovel snow, set-up tables, and unload the trucks–everyone playing a much-needed role for the benefit of the group.

We are all given an opportunity to contribute to the best of our spirit’s ability during each on-the-street event. We invite all of you–our supporters, stakeholders, and friends–to take part in any and all of the on-the-street events alongside us. Look for us on the corner of 125th St & Morningside, you can’t miss us!

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