Founders Day marks another opportunity to help local aid agency Face to Face

by April Lisante
Posted 5/13/21

On May 13, 1984, the dining room doors opened for the first time at Face to Face in Germantown. The idea was simple: much like a soup kitchen, it would offer hot meals for locals, no questions asked.

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Founders Day marks another opportunity to help local aid agency Face to Face

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On May 13, 1984, the dining room doors opened for the first time at Face to Face in Germantown. The idea was simple: much like a soup kitchen, it would offer hot meals for locals, no questions asked.

On that day, a lifeline for those in need and without voices was born, growing quickly from a grassroots community center to a neighborhood movement and finally an incorporated non-profit entity that would eventually offer not only nutrition, but medical, spiritual and even legal assistance for thousands who are homeless or low-income.

I’ve written before about Face to Face, but this week, I am spreading the word that this “Founder’s Day” 37th anniversary is a significant milestone to celebrate after a very difficult year and a critical moment to help support the organization, which serves more than 2,000 families and individuals in the community each year.

This May 13, hundreds from the community will gather for a free barbecue to celebrate Founder’s Day in the outdoor parking lot at 123 E. Price Street. Longtime Face to Face Chef Altenor Vaval will make ribs, hot dogs and burgers, while everyone enjoys outdoor music.

But here’s where we can help. Normally there would be an annual spring auction event, which comprises a big chunk of the organization’s budget. But thanks to COVID-19, Face to Face can’t hold a big formal in-person event. So executive director Mary Kay Meeks-Hank has come up with an alternate way to raise money, and she hopes the community can help with a May 13 Day of Giving.

Chestnut Hill has always been one of Face to Face’s biggest donor bases.

“People really and truly do respond and hold us up,” said a hopeful Meeks-Hank. “We exist to reduce the suffering of people and of our neighbors. We have seen more people for our social and legal services. For some people, Face to Face is a home.”

Face to Face is a place where locals can get food donations, hot meals, showers, medical help and legal advice. It is a place where people can go for food pantry items, toiletries and camaraderie. Everyone knows everyone, sort of like a big family. Since the pandemic, the organization has seen a marked increase in the needs of local families and those who are unemployed, hungry and, in some cases, facing eviction.

“The number of people who came to the door, their faces were different,” said Vaval. “Before, like 70 percent were age 60 and up. Then when Covid hit, 40 percent were families. The big challenge is waking up every morning and making sure service is top of the line.”

The fundraising effort this week, called the Campaign of Hope, is a four-pronged outreach for community aid. Face to Face mailed local donors an appeal for funds. They are also holding a silent online auction, which ends May 13, offering bidding for everything from a trip to Paris to Phillies box seats to a Haitian dinner crafted by Vaval himself.

May 13 also marks a Dine and Donate day, where six area restaurants will donate a portion of diners’ bills to Face to Face. In addition to the local Chestnut Hill Brewing Company and the Earth, Bread and Brewery, Fort Washington’s Cantina Feliz will participate, as well as two Doylestown eateries, Piccolo Trattoria and Quinoa Peruvian/Mexican BYO. In Philly, Attic Brewery on Berkley St. will also take part.

Finally, there will be a day of online giving for those who wish to make monetary donations.

All of the monies raised from the combined fundraising events will benefit those who need daily assistance from Face to Face. Since the pandemic struck, organizers have seen an increased need to assist with landlord-tenant and other housing issues, mold and rodent intervention and evictions.

“We have a new community advisory board to address diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Meeks-Hank, who has been at the helm of Face to Face for the past fourteen years. “This is a hospitable place where people are mutually transformed. We are living out ways to address the inequalities they experience day to day.

“We are trying with every action small to large to address inequalities that are mutually successful for everyone in our society.”

Despite restrictions on indoor dining room seating for the hungry, Face to Face continues an outdoor grab-and-go menu each day from noon to 2 p.m., featuring balanced selections like chicken, potatoes, salads or chili, serving hundreds in need. To not only continue its mission, but to provide better food, donations are key.

“If sponsors give more money, we can give a better meal,” Vaval said. “To create a difference, to transfer to the next generation, is to be more kind and caring people. We are all the same. We coexist together.”

For more information or to make a donation, visit www.facetofacegermantown.org.

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