by Clara Firpo-Cappiello –
On February 23rd (from 2 to 4 p.m.), the Irvington Theater will host “Build a Bigger Table,” a free event designed to offer audience members an opportunity to hear from neighbors who have personally experienced the presence of homelessness and food insecurity around us.
Many across the country, and even in Westchester and the rivertowns, struggle to find their next meal, or do not have a constant home. Not having food security, however, does not necessarily mean that one is homeless. A significant number of rivertowns residents have homes but still may not have enough money or steady income to ensure that dinner will be on the table every night.
According to moveforhunger.org, there are 2,261,250 people in New York alone who are food insecure, and 91,897 are homeless. These numbers are some of the highest in the country.
Several of the event speakers have experienced homelessness and food insecurity. Participants include Laura Case, a board member of Community Voices Heard (a nonprofit organization that addresses fair wages, housing, and homelessness). Douglass DeCandia works with incarcerated individuals and speaks about the importance of human relationships. Retired police officer Jeff Meyer, a full-time volunteer at the Ridgeway Church Food Pantry, and Dale Williams, the Executive Director of Midnight Run, will share their stories. A video will be presented from House of the Roses Dance Company (a nonprofit organization that brings the joy of dance, movement, and creative self-expression to at-risk children and youth in New York City homeless shelters and community centers).
Moderating the event will be Irvington resident, Richard Lobel (whose award-winning one-act play, “A Two Hundred Dollar Rhinoceros,” tells the poignant story of a chance encounter between two men, one of whom is homeless).
I spoke with Kim Gilligan, an Irvington Theater Commissioner and producer of the Diversity Series, about the event.
Q: Are there certain experiences in your life, things you’ve seen or heard, that make this topic important to you?
A: “When I was in my early 20s, I volunteered at a homeless shelter in Maine for a few months. It was a huge learning experience for me. I have also volunteered with my coworkers at the Westchester Food Bank.”
Q: Why is it important to speak more openly about homelessness and food insecurity?
A: “We, the Irvington Theater Commissioners, think that our Diversity Series audiences are so giving and engaged. We love that these events give people a chance to hear new perspectives and possibly get more involved. For this particular event we are not only collecting monetary donations which are sorely needed, but we are also collecting toiletries as well as new socks and underwear that can be given to people in need.”
Q: How can events like this make a difference?
A: “Build a Bigger Table, to me, means to invite people in. Share your resources. Reach out to others in need.”