Thin Places: Dwight Lopes

18 Sep

Dwight realized a “Thin Place” experience happen to him during Judith’s Memorial Service. He wrote the following story:

The memorial meeting at New Haven Friends Meeting, on September 16, for Judith Shea was very powerful. The things about Judith, that people shared, were full of love and captured her essence. Several people said they thought she, or her spirit, was definitely in the room with us.
People also shared that they will miss getting calls from Judith, which usually began “hello love” or “hello dearie.” One of her cousins, Jean Taft, shared a poem that she had constructed completely from Judith’s words from various messages and texts:
Hello Love. Hi Dear One. Fabulous. Thanks Love. Keep in Touch. Among others.

I was “in charge” of playing the three songs that Judith had chosen for her memorial. By playing them I mean having them on my cell phone, which was connected to the Meeting’s sound system to be played “with the touch of a button.”
The songs were in a list with other songs, but all I had to do was scroll to the correct song and press play. Simple, right?
Now, I also had sound files in the list that were voice messages that Judith had left me. I had listened to them just that morning to hear her voice again.
Now, there was a planning meeting a few weeks ago in which I was making sure I had all the requested songs on my phone. In the course of doing so I accidently played part of one of the voice mails. It was a pleasant surprise to those of us in the meeting, but not something to be repeated at the memorial meeting.
So during the memorial meeting people expressed, in various ways, with regret that they would never hear Judith’s voice again. I struggled with whether or not I should play one of the voice mails, but kept deciding not to, because it would be too tacky.

When the time came to play the last song, “If We Only Have Love” I pressed play and the song began as expected. I then turned my phone over and place it on my lap. The next thing everyone heard was “Hi love. Sorry I didn’t call before …” in Judith’s voice. I quickly turned the phone over and started the song again, while apologizing for my mistake.
I honestly cannot explain how this happened. Perhaps, we made it possible for Judith to reach the thin space we created and leave us with a last greeting.

Dwight Lopes, September 18, 2017

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Thin Places: Susan Hackett, Fish

21 Aug

I had recently experienced the deaths of two close friends. I was walking on Grand Avenue and was somewhat preoccupied. I was going over the Mill River bridge, and I must have been looking sad, or something, with my floppy hat. A policeman came towards me, a young black man, and he said, “Good morning ma’am. Did you see the fish?” I said, “no, I didn’t see any fish.” And I’m thinking fish? And he said, “come, come, come.” He brought me over to the railing and he said, “Look, there are thousands of them!” And I looked down and I didn’t see anything. I had my sunglasses on. He said, “Here, try my glasses. They’re prescription sunglasses” He handed me his prescription sunglasses. I took mine off and put his on. He said, “Look, look, look. They’re coming back for you!” And then as I focused, I could see the fish! He said, “They are little fish; they are bait fish.” I don’t know anything about fish, but there were literally thousands of them! He kept saying, they are coming back so you can see them!” And they did, they came almost to the bridge and then swirled around. And as they turned the sun reflected on their silvery bodies. And then they started going back the other way. I hadn’t cried for my friends, and I don’t usually cry, but after I walked away, I started to cry.

Thin Places: Carl Newlin in Northern Japan

16 Aug

Have you experienced a moment when the curtain between this world and the spiritual opened for a moment?  Celtic spirituality calls this the “Thin Places”. A thin place is a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. It’s a place where we can sense the divine more readily.

 

[A note from Michael] Carl and I discussed the appropriateness of the story below and we decided that wrestling with the darkness can truly be a “Thin Place”. Carl knows this is a personal experience and he struggles with it even to this day.

 

Gospel of Thomas, Chapter 113

His disciples said to Jesus, “When will the Father’s imperial rule come? It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said ‘Look here or Look there!’ Rather the Father’s rule is spread out upon the earth, and people don‘t see it.

Chapter 97

“The Father’s rule is like a woman who was carrying a jar full of seeds. While she was walking along a distant road, the handle of the jar broke and the seeds gradually spilled behind her along the road. She didn’t know it; she hadn’t noticed a problem. When she reached her house, she put the jar down and discovered that it was empty.”

 

Carl: This parable moved me deeply because of Jesus’ portrayal of the kingdom has to do with the unnoticed or unexpected event. It informs my story below:

 

“I was in my last undergraduate year at University of Chicago and I decided I wanted to go to study meditation in the Eheiji Buddhist monastery in Japan. I had received money to travel and I went to Japan for six months. I made my way to the Temple and an elderly Japanese woman approached me with a photograph, which she held out to show me. She said this was a photo of her granddaughter and she would like me to come to their house to meet her. Her granddaughter would give me a good time. I didn’t immediately understand what she was getting at, but then it sunk in that this was a sexual proposition! Once I understood, I told her no, I couldn’t do that. Here I was studying Zazen Buddhist meditation in a sacred shrine and I was propositioned, no less, by a girl’s grandmother! Honestly since I was in my early 20’s with hormones raging, I returned to this incident over and over and there were times when I regretted my “proper” decision. Nevertheless from this internal conflict, I had a realization and a deep understanding of how self-centered, addictive behavior can be in conflict with my openness to spiritual things.

Thin Places: Ellen Carey, Korean Beggar

8 Aug

Have you experienced a moment when the curtain between this world and the spiritual opened for a moment?  Celtic spirituality calls this experience the “Thin Places”. A thin place is a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. It’s a place where we can sense the divine more readily.

 

In the ’80’s I was working with Maryknoll, a mission group in South Korea living in SongNam,  which is outside of Seoul. I was living with two priests, two sisters and myself. We were going into the homes of people who didn’t have medical care and I was doing nursing. I got to meet with Mother Theresa’s Brothers who lived in Seoul. They were all Korean. A Brother from India came and started the Missionaries of Charity in South Korea. They had a house in Seoul and one in Incheon. They invited me to go with them into places in Seoul where a lot of Americans were not allowed because the government didn’t want that kind of poverty exposed. So I took them up on the offer. Before I left, I had lunch with others in the Maryknoll house in Seoul. Of course when they heard what I was doing, they all said that it was such wonderful work and gave me generous pats on the back.

With that sendoff, I went to the bus stop. I was standing on a busy corner on the outskirts of Seoul with many other people gathered around waiting for the bus. Out of the crowd came a man right toward me. He looked like a beggar. He was not very clean and he had tattered clothes. As he was coming toward me, I noticed his eyes, which were very bright and locked on mine. He came with a smile on his face and he put out his hand. In very good English (unusual for the lower economic class in Korea) he looked into my eyes with a smile on his face, he said, “I am hungry.” I had chun won, which is about a dollar, in my pocket and I pulled it out and put it into the palm of his hand. When he received it, he put his hand around my hand. Without looking at the money, but looking into my eyes, he pulled my hand toward him and kissed it. Then he said, “I love you.”

At that moment, I heard in my mind, clear as a bell, the words, “This is your God.” Then he turned his hand towards me and I kissed his hand and I said, “I love you.” He radiated a smile and moved off. I was in another dimension and lowered my eyes. When I looked up, I couldn’t see him anywhere in the crowd. He was gone. Now everyone was looking at me as if I were crazy.  As a light-skinned, light haired, blue-eyed, tall person, I stood out and with what had just happened, we had made a scene!

I perceived that this was Jesus in disguise and he had told me something I really needed to hear. On the bus on my way over to the Brother’s house, I thought that this is the way Jesus would appear to people individually. He would come in obscurity and without fanfare; the hidden Christ.

 

Young Friends at YSOP, NYC

1 May
Photo Apr 01, 2 08 59 PM

Jesse, Finn, Elija, Charlotte, and Harriet at the Relief Bus

YSOP Youth Service Opportunities Project

March 30-April 1, 2017

Those Attending: Elijah Martin-Mooney, Finn Anderson, Harriet Anderson, and Charlotte Gorham. Jesse Otis, the adult leader. There were two other larger groups of high school students, one from New Hampshire (18 students) and another group from Southbury, CT (13 students)

This blog entry was transcribed from a recording of a presentation by Young Friends to the New Haven Meeting for Business on April 9, 2017.

YSOP is a Quaker organization for middle and high school students that provides volunteer service-learning experiences in New York City (and Washington DC). It encourages community participation and engaged citizenship through direct and indirect service to our society’s most vulnerable populations.

Harriet: Our weekend at YSOP gave us an idea what hungry people look like, how they live, and what factors got them there. It gave us opportunities to interact and see how they are not that different from us. For those of us who live in privileged communities, we don’t get to see these things everyday.

Photo Apr 01, 12 44 53 PM

Jesse: The trip started on Friday with a guest speaker, Luis, who does outreach at AFSC. He gave a workshop with our team of high schoolers and told us that there are 62,000 homeless in NYC and half of them are minors. He also told us that two out of five of New Yorkers are food insecure. He had us sit at five different tables. One table was for convicts, the second was for those close to being hungry, the third table was for those who are comfortable, the fourth table was for those in government, and the last table was for advocates.

Luis did this exercise to illuminate the dialog between policy, the role of government, and community activists, to show where power is located in our society and who makes decisions. The exercise demonstrated how power is distributed to people with money and to people who have a voice in the government. The point was made that to give other people a chance, somehow power needs to be redistributed.

Charlotte: Where we stayed was a school during the day, a homeless shelter during the night and a Quaker Meeting on Sundays. It was a very well-used space. We were in the cafeteria in the basement all of Friday night. After Luis’ presentation, half of us worked in the kitchen preparing dinner and the other half of us set the tables and played games with the other students. YSOP had selected a few homeless people to come have dinner with us. The homeless people came in and joined us playing games as one way of interacting together. After 35-40 minutes, the students started serving food (vegetarian chili, salad, corn bread, and coleslaw)

Photo Mar 31, 8 48 23 PM

Harriet: We had dinner with Carlos. Carlos had a lot of tips about home renovation and he liked interior design. He talked about his family and his daughters. YSOP suggested we not ask them what happened that got them into the situation and to keep the conversation on normal topics unless they offered to talk about it themselves. We asked Carlos what he wanted for dinner, filled his plate, and served him. Then we got our food.

Jesse: At the end of the night, the YSOP workers asked us if we had any thoughts about the experience. Is this what you expected? Is this how you expected them to look, is this how you expected them to act? So we got a chance to reflect on what happened.

Charlotte: We slept on the Meetinghouse floor and were awakened by a (really loud) bagpipe player, who came and played for us-not what we expected at 6 o’clock!

Photo Apr 01, 6 58 06 AMSo, we got up, had breakfast, and got sent out in groups of about six into all different boroughs in New York City. All of us from New Haven went together and we took the subway to our site on 125th St in Harlem. Photo Apr 01, 9 02 51 AMThere we got on a Christian relief bus. The bus goes to the same spot at 125th St and Park Ave every weekend. There from the front of the bus, we served really good food (hot tomato soup, bread, and hot chocolate or lemonade). In the back of the bus, we gave out socks and a hygiene kit. We were also to ask if they wanted us to pray for them. Photo Apr 01, 12 46 10 PMWe had never done this and had never taken part in spoken prayer in the way they were doing it. So, that was a little tricky! In the middle of the bus there was a place for one-on-one meetings for the people to meet with the counselors to talk about job training, addiction treatment, or to help finding shelter or an apartment.

Question from the floor: “Were there children coming to the bus with homeless parents?” Answer-yes.

Harriet: By the end of the day we had served about 300 people food from 10-2pm. There were 21 meetings with relief counselors, and we distributed 100 hygiene kits and 90 pairs of socks.

Jesse: After this, we returned to the 15th St. Meetinghouse and reconvened with the other groups. Photo Mar 31, 9 40 07 PMWe all got to talk about what we had done. A lot of the other groups had more traditional soup kitchen experiences. It didn’t appear that they got quite the interaction with the people looking for support that we did. The bus was small and we were all busy. When we weren’t handing out food and kits, we were out on the street collecting trash.

Question from the floor: What was the denomination of the Christian organization that ran the bus and what was said in the prayers?

Charlotte: A lot of times people asked us to say a prayer for their family or for their kids. When we said the prayers, they hung on every word we said. They thought we had more experience and training. We made them up on the spot. It was a bit stressful.

Note: The Relief bus is not owned or operated by YSOP. It has its own separate operation staffed by people who refer to themselves as “urban missionaries”. The organization is Christian, but has no denominational identification.

Photo Apr 01, 4 17 43 PM

If you would like to make a donation to YSOP or The Relief Bus, the webpages are listed below:

YSOP: http://www.ysop.org/donate/

Relief Bus: https://pushpay.com/pay/newyorkcityrelief/4l_48IJRi9DE1Sqtj4ecIA

Grant Wiedenfeld Update

4 Aug

Grant sent this blog entry just as I was leaving town for the Appalachian Trail. I had no way to get this into the blog until now, so I apologize to Grant and to you all that this is slightly more than a month old…Michael

IMG_4146Dear Friends,

I last wrote to share news of my settling into Houston, Texas, as an Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at Sam Houston State University. I spent a busy year teaching new classes and continuing my research, while meeting people and exploring activities like sand volleyball and the art scene in Houston. I was then fortunate to escape the summer heat and head to Europe, where I am teaching the same French cinema class for the Yale Summer Session that I taught last summer.

Before going to Paris I stopped in London to visit some Yalies who live there now. One does research at the British Library and a Slavic archive on Euston Street. She told me that she and her colleagues often go to lunch at the Quaker Centre Café. I stayed the night in the Bloomsbury area, and was able to visit two interesting places that I want to share with you.

The Friends House or Quaker Centre is both the hub of Quakers in Britain and a conference center that rents its space to a variety of organizations. IMG_4169IMG_4168IMG_4163IMG_4162Its bookshop and café seem to attract a lot of people from the neighborhood. In the café overheard them offering a discount to University College London folks. I had a great meal with three different kinds of salads (one with quinoa) and a quiche; a vegetarian’s delight. In retrospect I wish I had taken a photo of the café, which is like a cafeteria. It’s in the basement of Friends House, which reminds me of the New Haven fellowship area. I did take photos of the building’s exterior, main entrance, courtyard, and café/bookshop.

The second place I visited was the Westminster Quaker Meeting House. The only time I could pop in was first thing in the morning, and the “warden” Lorraine O’Hanlon kindly let me in and showed me around. They have a number of spaces for community group meetings such as AA, and three worship meetings weekly. One of the worship meetings is special—“Drop-in Silence” they call it, which is different from a proper Quaker worship. Entirely non-denominational, it’s simply what the name says: people can drop in, sit in silence, and leave when they please. Lorraine said it was successful in having new people come and in creating a popular space. Their building is located in the heart of London; the library and main hall struck me as calm centers in the storm of the city that I saw as a tourist. In the entryway they had paintings from a Quaker artist, Ron Waddams, hanging on both sides. I quite appreciated one picture called “Unresolved and universal questions of existence” (Acrylic on board, 122×122 cm, 2000). Its four colors and sleek lines show a complex of relations among figures. The texture of the sharply cut borders feels both abstract and tactile to me.IMG_4155

If you visit London I encourage you to see these two places. And if you hear about British Quaker activity or see their trademark Q you can now associate them with the Friends House. After I left London I stopped in Calais, France, to spend a week volunteering around the refugee camp. I will share that experience with you in my next post.

Peace,

Grant

 

Volunteering at a Refugee Camp in Calais, France

Dear Friends,

Europe’s most infamous refugee camp is in Calais, the point where the Eurotunnel plunges under the tunnel before emerging in Dover. Here over 6,000 migrants currently live as they wait to pass into Britain. A lawless place with some inhumane living conditions, the camp is known everywhere as “The Jungle.” I spent ten days there as a volunteer and an assistant on a documentary.

Several non-profits operate a warehouse near the camp that sorts incoming donations and distributes food, clothes, and other gear to the refugees. They have developed systems of distribution that aim to be fair and dignified—you can imagine how just driving into camp with a trunk full of free stuff would create an awful scene. The warehouse operation grew out of the desire to deliver one van of donations from the UK in 2008. A grassroots effort developed and continues to evolve.

These pictures give you an idea of how the sorting operation works, and the sign from the camp lists what items are distributed each day. I would like to describe their operation and my experience in greater detail, but it would be better to do so in person sometime.It suffices to say that I met some wonderful volunteers and residents in the camp, and I was sad to only be able to volunteer for ten days. If you want to read more about non-profit work there go to Calaid-ipedia. Here is a link to the fundraiser site for HelpRefugees, one organization at the warehouse where I worked.

A documentary filmmaker in my department in Texas, Jean Bodon, has an interesting approach to the Jungle. He gave cellphones to some refugees who could film their everyday life and express themselves. This form of collaboration aims to give them a more direct voice. I helped by giving phones to a few refugees I met, and I also helped them film some interviews. I hope to share more about that project later on.

I did find one Quaker who also worked at the warehouse, a Belgian named Renke Meuwese. He has some connections at the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network, who give legal help to asylum seekers inside the UK. From their logo I suspect that they are located at Friends House in London, which is a nice way to round out this blog post.

I wish you all well in New Haven, and I hope to visit you soon.

Peace,

Grant

Lori Martin-Mooney: Food Rescue

23 Mar

Lori Martin Mooney

I was born with a social consciousness. By age five I was writing to save the whales. The house I lived in from age eight to seventeen is the same house where I live now. My parents bought it 43 years ago. My family was Roman Catholic and I went to St. Rose Church. I always liked church things and St. Roses was always pretty progressive and today, is still very progressive. I went to college and was a women’s history major. I learned about Quaker women and the progressiveness of Quakers all through US history.

Then, Bill and I lived in Tucson, before Ben was born, and we were a part of the Sanctuary movement. We hosted a family from Central America. There were a lot of people involved including many Quakers, but we didn’t attend the Meeting, but when Ben was born, I decided I had to go to a Quaker Meeting so he would have the option of being a conscientious objector. When we returned to New Haven from Tucson, we went church-shopping. The New Haven Meeting was at Yale, but it didn’t feel like the right fit. It took a while, but eventually we got here.

Carol, a runner from New Haven

Carol, a runner from New Haven

Food Rescue-Community Plates
Kevin Mullins and Jeff Schacher started Community Plates in Norwalk, CT. in 2011. They made and designed software for restaurants to manage their labor, inventory, and reporting. They were doing well and they knew how much food restaurants wasted, so they designed the Community Plates app to redirect the food to places that might be able to use it. It’s a direct transfer model and it is decentralized as opposed to CT Foodbank. It operates with food runners and food donors and an AMAZING amount of food gets saved.

I’m the site director for New Haven Community Plates. It’s also in Fairfield County, Columbus Ohio, Albuquerque, NM, and New Orleans. New Haven got underway two or three years ago. I signed up as a runner when I first heard about it. Initially, we were rescuing food from the Winter CSA at City Seed. The winter food is not necessarily perishable. So, there wasn’t that much to be rescued. The young woman in charge was transitioning into another full-time job, so New Haven stopped for a while. This fall, I asked Caleb if he wanted to help me do something about it. He had some time in his life and he said yes. So, when we told Kevin and Jeff we wanted to reinvigorate New Haven, they were excited. They told us that Southern CT University, Toni Harp’s office, and Trader Joe’s in Orange had all just called and wanted to be involved.

So we called Trader Joes and they have become our primary donor site right now. We give the food to St. Gabe’s weekly soup kitchen in Milford, Beth El Center (a shelter and daily soup kitchen) in Milford, There’s No Place Like Home in New Haven, United House of Prayer on Dixwell Ave, Loaves and Fishes food pantry, and Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen. Some of these contacts I made and some were already made.

Caleb is my wing guy. He’s great at things that suit young people. He loves talking to groups and he does some of the tech work. I have about a dozen active runners. I wish I had more. We try to get people close to home so they are closer to the donors. I recruit friends to be runners. Sometimes folks hear about it and call us, and some come from the drop off sites.

One day Caleb and I got a call from Trader Joes. We took off and filled our Prius full to the roof with food. We had things tucked in the sides, Caleb had a case of food on his lap. I had been trying to reach some of the churches on Dixwell, but hadn’t been able to make any headway. That day I told Caleb, we were going to go down Dixwell and we were going to find a church! So coming from town, we turned onto Dixwell and about 500 feet on the left side was a church with a sign out front that said, “Kitchen Is Open”. So, I pulled in and asked two people standing by the door, “Is the Kitchen open?” One man said, no, but if you come back tomorrow, it will be.” I told him I didn’t need food, but that I had food to give and that I had just been to Trader Joes 15 minutes before and had a carload of food to give. He said he could take the food and that they feed their entire congregation on Sunday. So, I pulled around and the man directed me to a side door. He was very nicely dressed and was a charismatic man. His name is Pastor Woodley. When I opened the trunk and he saw the food, he was speechless. He said, “I shop at Trader Joes and this is all organic food.” He motioned over two other pastors and said, “Look at this-they brought us all this rescued food!” Caleb started bringing the food downstairs and of course, Pastor Woodley wanted to help. I was trying to get his contact information. He was turning in circles! Caleb and I had a meeting with him two weeks later and he told us that we can bring all the food we have and he will give it out. He said if they get the food regularly, he would invest in refrigerators and freezers and they’d open the church one day a week. We recruited several runners from that church and they’ve been bringing food across the street to the senior center as well.
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How it works is that Trader Joes calls me and then I start calling runners. The loads can be a car-full or a van-full. The load on New Year’s Day was a van-full, filled all the way to the roof. Thanksgiving, we had two car-loads, Christmas Day, we filled the van again to the roof! The food is frozen or fresh organic meat, prepared foods, dairy, or produce. We get all the perishables that you can’t get at the food pantries.

I want to expand our services, but we’re trying to grow slowly to make sure our relationship is solid with Trader Joes first and that when we say yes, we remove all the food and find places for it. Stores don’t like it when the people picking up food are unreliable or picky. We have done a good job and I know we are in good stead with Trader Joes, so I am thinking about markets, restaurants, and box store like Costco as new donor sites. I want more runners. You can only expand with the amount of runners you have. Without runners, the whole thing can topple. I’ve only been looking just at New Haven, but I have my eye on Madison and Waterbury.

We have a schedule of every night at 7pm and on Saturdays at 11 am and they sometimes give us a run on Wednesdays mornings at 11. Although every other week there is another run somewhere. I brought a case of meat to Friends Center For Children. I’ve also made a contact with Head Start in West Haven and they’re going to accept food. I’m thrilled to be working with the daycares.

A typical pick up takes about 30 minutes. I call just before I arrive, the food is all ready and boxed up, they pull the food out of the freezer, and put it on the dolly. Someone opens the door and we throw it in the car. Beth El Center is 9 minutes, the store in New Haven is 20 minutes. The runs are pretty much 20 minutes. Some days if I have to go back it takes longer.

One time after I had loaded up the car, Trader Joes said they had a couple more boxes of food. I was dropping off in Milford, so I told them I would come back and pick up the extras and take them in to New Haven on my way back. When I got there, they had eight boxes of meat and two boxes of tuna steaks. There were three huge garbage bags of bread and baked goods, which I put in my roof travel rack. Then I started to call around to my sites in New Haven. Most had just gotten orders from CT Foodbank and couldn’t take more, Beth El Center was totally full. Downtown New Haven Food Kitchen was closed for the week. I had nowhere to take the food. So, I went through my list again and decided to call St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen on Dixwell and Arch Sts. They said they would take the food! I got there and ran into a woman. She said, “I’m Lucy, you talked to me!” She told me that as she drove to work today she had prayed to God because she didn’t have enough food to feed her people. She said that someone had just dropped off a stationwagon full of fruit and vegetables from Bishop’s and now I had arrived. She was crying!

Food insecurity exists all around us. It’s not the same as folks needing soup kitchens. Food insecurity is more silent. So a bag of food, even a bag of apples, shifts things for families. It doesn’t have to be just the homeless. There are families that won’t go to the soup kitchens. There’s a tipping point when they will go for help, but before that tipping point, things are hard and then it gets harder and then they don’t have enough. If daycares are being subsidized, there are families on the edge and we know that food insecurity exists.

The kids and I talk about classism in our society and in the Quaker world, in terms of social justice, how people have access and what does it mean to have access. I had a postcard on my wall-I think I got it from Yearly Meeting-it’s a quote from Dorothy Day that says: Peace begins when the hungry are fed. One of the nuns at St. Roses said to me when I was young, that people can’t read the Bible if their stomachs are growling. In terms of daycares, children can’t learn if they are hungry. So, it was easy for me to say yes to this leading because I have been thinking about it for a very long time.

Lori and Caleb are still looking for runners to pick up and drop off food. Community Plates has an app that that is given to volunteers. The app displays the on-going schedule for their community so runners can sign up for a run that suits their availability, location, and car size. 8 million pounds of food is saved from the landfill annually.