Tag Archives: Bushnell Park

Journey Home’s doing it again

11924928_1051970821513899_1845036519654481022_nGiven the success of their August Dinner in the Park, where Journey Home partnered with area restaurants to feed roughly 200 hungry people, the non-profit organization is doing it again.

And they could use your help.

Along with Max Downtown in Hartford, Arugula Bistro in West Hartford, and Starbucks Coffee, Journey Home wants to send some people home with a fully belly this Saturday evening in Bushnell Park. And yes, they’re watching the weather carefully, because we’re supposed to continue to get the remnants of Hurricane Joaquin.

But rain or shine, for a suggested donation of $25, you can help feed a neighbor who could really use the meal. Interested? Learn more here.

Goodbye, Terry, the gentle giant

CBTPMarch302013Every Wednesday night — rain or shine — a group of good-hearted souls go to Hartford’s beautiful, historic Bushnell Park to pass out food, give haircuts, and treat the people who are homeless in the park like humans.

The following comes from one of those good-hearted souls, a woman named Susan (not me):

I was late because of a traffic backup, and by the time I got there a large crowd had formed. As usual a couple of guys came over to help unload my car. As soon as I got everything set up my colleague George came over and told me that one of our customers/helpers, Terry, had died the day before. I turned to the crowd of guys next to me and they all started affirming that it was true.

I couldn’t believe it. Terry’s dad just died a couple of weeks ago. Terry had been helping to care for him. Terry was a big guy who couldn’t move very well, and had shared with me that he had diabetes. He usually asked me to give him a sandwich on wheat bread instead of white, if possible. When movement became more difficult, we asked him to help us serve, so that at least he would be able to lean on the table for support. He would always try to pass me a couple of cheese bagels when the bakery had lots of them for us, though I told him not to until everyone else had chosen what they wanted first. He was the person who, years ago when I would show up with cases of Hostess products, began singing out “Ring Ding Dong!” I know he often snagged extra chips and goodies from his perch behind the table, but he was sweet and we just looked the other way.

After everyone had gone through the line and received their sandwiches, chips and drinks, our resident sheriff Milton (a long time customer who is a part-time postal worker, part-time crossing guard and natural-born leader) spoke up and said he wanted to make an announcement. He quieted us all down, even telling Joe to turn off his clippers! Then he told everybody that Terry had died the day before, and that we were going to have a moment of silence. It got quiet. Then Milton told us that Terry was a good guy, and that people in our group cared about him, and that we need to care for each other, check in on each other, let somebody know if someone is missing, etc. It was a sweet moment.

I’ll miss Terry. He was a gentle giant, and a big presence behind our table.

Look what they did in Hartford’s Bushnell Park on Sunday

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My friend Sara Capen Salomons and Journey Home, with the help of some awesome restaurants, fed some 200 people — men, women and children — in Hartford’s historic park.

Free dinner for those in need in Bushnell Park on Aug. 30

indexJourney Home and Arugula Bistro in West Hartford, Salute Restaurant in Hartford, Whole Foods Market West Hartford, and Starbucks Coffee are providing free meals to people in need in Hartford’s Bushnell Park, starting at 5 p.m.

Here’s where you come in:

Donate $25 (or more!) to  Journey Home to buy a meal for someone, and to help fund this organization’s efforts to prevent and end homelessness. (If you’ll remember, Journey Home did a lot of heavy lifting during Connecticut’s recent 100-day challenge to end chronic homelessness.

We gathered. We vigiled. We prayed.

photo(6)About 60 people gathered on the north steps of Hartford’s State Capitol (the side facing Bushnell Park) in bitter cold to pray, sing, and stand vigil over the murders of three University of North Carolina students — Muslims all — Deah Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19.

A host of speakers added their thoughts, but I was most moved at the end, when everyone’s fingers and feet were frozen, someone (I was at the back and didn’t see who) thought to lead the crowd in “We Shall Overcome,” that beautiful battle hymn of the civil rights movement. (It’s probably not politic to call anything a “battle hymn” in a movement that was so much adamantly non-violent, but you get my drift). There was something about a pretty diverse crowd raising their voices in the sharp, clear night that gave me hope.

Onward.

I heart Hartford. Yes. Hartford.

I has in Hartford last night — at Bushnell Park— for a picnic.

My cousin has been visiting from  Missouri, and as they’re leaving bright and early this morning, we wanted to get everyone together for one last hurrah. (That photo is of two cousins, playing a toddler’s version of soccer. The delighted little boy is one of my twin grandbabies. The cute girl in pink is one of my cousin’s twins. The little boy also has sisters who are triplets. We have babies in litters, I guess.)

As family matriarch, I got there early, so I parked and found a bench. Though it was mid-afternoon, the park was bustling with office dwellers who carried briefcases or file folders and walked with a purpose. There were a few families, but mostly? Bushnell was all business. While I killed time people-watching, I was reminded how much I — I’m just going to say it — love Hartford. For the first time in a long time, I enjoyed our beautiful jewel of a park. I visited some trees. I watched an egret in the duck pond. I stood outside the carousel and watched the children ride. I wished for a child of my own to use as an excuse to throw my leg over one of the horses and have a ride, myself.

When the family arrived, we spread out blankets, stuffed ourselves with pizza and cupcakes, played soccer, juggled babies, and chatted. It was too late to ride the carousel (it closes at 5) but we enjoyed the vibe of a really pretty park in a city that is lousy with potential.

And I mean that. No one is paying me to say nice things about Hartford. I’m doing this on my own. Maybe it’s popular sport to say nasty things about any city. It certainly is here — and most of those nasty things are said by people who have scant little involvement with Hartford. They stand on the city’s borders and, lacking anything meaningful to do, they throw rocks. I have never understood that and often wondered what it would take to get them to picnic in the park, and see for themselves. Hartford has loads of challenges, but Hartford has loads of potential and what do you do after you throw rocks? You throw some more.

After long goodbyes, everyone left, and my husband and I hung out a little. He grew up in Hartford. For a brief moment,  the park was ours, but as we leaned against our cars, here came the next wave. This group was a slower-paced bunch of families of all shades and sizes, pushing strollers, throwing footballs, and enjoying their jewel of a park.  You could hear several languages, but the laughter was universal.

I remember a former city official once told me that cities like Hartford serve as jumping-off points. Immigrants come to a place like Hartford, get their bearings, get their nest eggs, and then they move up and out to surrounding towns. That was the trajectory of my husband’s family. One set of grandparents came from Ireland, the other from Italy. They lived and worked in the South End, and then their families, when they’d saved enough, moved up and out. My own family — one branch of it, anyway — came to Virginia in the 1600s, then followed the Hillbilly Trail out to Missouri [see Jim Webb’s “Born Fighting“], where they decided enough was enough, and sunk a plow in the ground, and a pickaxe in the mines. It’s hard to imagine that bunch taking time to enjoy their surroundings, but I hope they did.

This was the first time in a long time I was part of both first and second shift in the park. I don’t know. I guess I don’t have a point, other than to say how cool it was to sit and watch the city unfold petal after petal, like a flower. And after, we drove to my husband’s old neighborhood. We’d done so before, but this time, we got out of our cars and he told me about the pine trees that once stood where new houses stand now. He told me how he used to hate to mow (he still does), and how his father put those green awnings up.

We were there long enough that a young man came out of his old house, to watch us watching the house. As we pulled away, I called out that my husband once lived here 100 years ago, and the young man called back, “For real? Tell him we’re taking care of it.”

Yep. Hartford.  Love it.