Marty Rogers, from Bronx, NY, has been feeding the homeless for 44 years. And in those four decades, the dad from Bronx, New York, has organized a Thanksgiving dinner for those in need through his church, Immaculate Conception. Every year, his three kids help him serve up the holiday meal. He said even though they’re all grown now, he can count on them to return to the Bronx and help him each Thanksgiving.
Marty was inspired to do even more a few years ago. Marty came up with what are now called “Hope Walks.” A few times a year, Marty and volunteers from the church and school would get together to make sandwiches and then walk around their South Bronx neighborhood and ask people if they’d like some food. Marty and his group try to make each person feel comfortable, and they also ask each person their name.
When the pandemic hit and many things shut down, Marty decided to ramp up his efforts. “No one was out. Everyone was quarantining. But, who is out, is more and more people who are homeless,” he said. “Now, it’s staring us really in the face. And we had the conversation and we started going out once a week with our supplies, and then we said, ‘This has to be more.’ And we went three times a week.”
Each week, they pack up bags with homemade sandwiches, snacks and water. The supplies are bought with donations from the community, including donations from businesses. Volunteers for the walks include kids from Immaculate Conception. Each volunteer grabs a bag filled with sandwiches, cookies, water, and gloves, and walks the neighborhood to look for people who might be in need. The students witness people on the street looking out for their friends, at times leading the walkers to another person “who could use” a sandwich or a bottle of water that the group was giving out.
“Our neighborhood has a lot of people who are homeless. Some of the people are seniors, some of the people might have addiction issues. We don’t ask, it’s none of our business, it’s non judgemental.” Each person they encounter is gracious for the food and the prayer. Marty has gotten to know many people in the neighborhood and is happy it’s making an impact. Rogers said he hopes other parishes, schools and church organizations replicate what the Hope Walk is doing so more people can be helped.