Cold Spring church continues Midnight Run
Once a month, members of the First Presbyterian Church of Philipstown pack up donated clothing and other items and undertake their Midnight Run, a late-night drive to Manhattan to help people living on the streets.
Iorgo Papoutsas and Alberto Lora, both veteran volunteers with First Presbyterian, understand what the trip means. Both have been homeless. Their presence, said Papoutsas, helps homeless people feel that they are valued and creates a sense of connection in otherwise isolated lives.
“It’s beyond the items,” said Papoutsas, who along with Lora helps translate for Spanish-speakers.
The Midnight Run started in Dobbs Ferry in 1984 after members of a church who volunteered at a soup kitchen in Manhattan invited a homeless woman to speak to their congregation.
The Rev. Joe Gilmore brought it to First Presbyterian by single-handedly delivering supplies that he handed to people out of the back of his Volkswagen Beetle two nights a week.
Now, Ron Sopyla, a Beacon resident who is the church’s Midnight Run coordinator, keeps it alive with a group of volunteers who kept the monthly trips going even during the pandemic.
The church’s run to Manhattan on June 24 was the first, since the pandemic started, for Lynn Brown, who began volunteering with First Presbyterian in 1992. Mike and Molly Bernstein, a father-daughter duo from Cold Spring, have been on a number of Midnight Runs. Their first trip represented Molly’s bat mitzvah project.
“You’re from heaven!” a homeless man said to Molly, 15, when she gave him food.
In addition to food, volunteers hand out blankets, clothing and toiletries. Local residents donate many of the items, and the church also draws from its large food pantry.
The day of the recent run, volunteers met at the church around 1 p.m. to assemble bags of food and make meat and cheese sandwiches. Along with two sandwiches, the bags contained two clementines, an apple, two water bottles and juice.
Distribution takes place at various stops — streets in Manhattan that are frequented by homeless people. Volunteers rendezvous at the first stop around 9:30 p.m. The early arrivals wait patiently on the sidewalk until everyone shows up for the run, which will end two hours later.
There is a system. The homeless receive toiletries, then clothing and other supplies. The distribution ends with bagged sandwiches and cups of soup and coffee.
First Prebyterian’s fourth stop was a street in the lower half of Manhattan, where people huddled in makeshift shelters, highlighting the reality of life on the streets. Some of the homeless stayed asleep when First Presbyterian’s crew began handing out supplies, so volunteers left items with their belongings.
Brown and Ann Nhatavong handed out clothing, blankets, and bags. “It’s usually busier than what it was tonight,” said Nhatavong.
The next Midnight Run is scheduled for July 29. To donate supplies or volunteer, visit the church’s website, presbychurchcoldspring.org.
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