Monday, July 9, 2012

Feeding Fort Lauderdale's homeless - where a meal could be a new start

By Jane Feehan

While crowds headed to the beach last Wednesday for Fourth of July festivities, Arnold Abbott and his volunteers were stopped after they unloaded their vehicle at Fort Lauderdale’s South Beach, across from Bahia Mar Marina.  They were there, as they have been so many Wednesdays before, to feed about 200 of the city’s homeless. It was a tense 45 minute showdown until a sympathetic cop familiar with Love Thy Neighbor (www.lovethyneighbor.org ) and their mission let them set up and dish out meals.

Abbott, founder of the organization, has had these confrontations before but it doesn’t deter him from feeding the homeless. Love Thy Neighbor also provides more than 200 people with meals at Stranahan Park and All Saints Catholic Mission on Sundays. What many might not know as they see people gathered for food is that much of it is prepared by homeless volunteers. In an attempt to acquire skills, find a job and get off the streets, they take a nine-week culinary class provided by Abbott at the Homeless Assistance Center of Fort Lauderdale. If they succeed in this first step, they can attend McFatter Technical Center in Broward County at no charge to learn more about their new trade.

“About 40 percent of LTN students move forward to McFatter ,” Abbott said. “Some graduate from there to attend Fort Lauderdale Art Institute's culinary program; we consider it graduate school.”  Abbott, who founded LTN in 1991 at the behest of his dying wife, Maureen, says 350 students have graduated from his culinary skills program. It’s not easy keeping track of them as they move on, laments their teacher. Some go back to the streets to resume old drug and alcohol habits. Many have mental problems. “We’ve seen a few bi-polar cases that are very difficult to deal with,” Abbott added.  Others find jobs they were trained for. According to LTN, about 45,000 people work in the restaurant business in Broward County.

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Arnold Abbott (from LTN site)
Both the feeding program and the culinary program are funded through donations.  Abbott, who works a full schedule of daily activities, including fundraising, does not get paid for his efforts. Only one staff member is salaried. Love Thy Neighbor attempts to fill a large social resources gap in the tourist-based economy of South Florida. 

LTN founder and students delivered meals recently to homeless families temporarily housed through Hope South Florida and Faith in Action at Saint Anthony Catholic Church. The food - meatloaf, pasta and chicken, curried potatoes, cole slaw, fruit salad - was prepared and dished out by Abbott’s students and other volunteers.

Some say a society can be judged by how it treats its elderly, women and children. If that is true, a community might also be judged by how it treats its homeless. A locally-based organization serving a local population in need, Love Thy Neighbor attempts to pull people up through caring and training. They do much; they need much.   I’ll  post more about Arnold Abbott, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, published writer, former jeweler, and man with an endless mission. 

Visit www.lovethyneighbor.org for more information. 
For more on St. Anthony Catholic Church: www.saintanthonyfl.org
For more on Hope South Florida: www.hopesouthflorida.org

By Arnold P. Abbott:




Tags: Arnold P. Abbott, Arnold Abbott, Love Thy Neighbor culinary program, homeless in Fort Lauderdale, feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale charities









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