By Ashley Kooblall
BHUVANESHWAR MANDIR defined the meaning of the power of kindness this holiday season by hosting its first annual Midnight Run, Friday, December 13 – where members handed out care packages to lighten the burden of those less fortunate living on the streets of New York City.
The run, spearheaded by 17-year-old Francesca Liriano, provided an opportunity for volunteers of all ages to witness the need across communities and be a vehicle to make a change.
“I wanted both, the children and adults to realize that there are people out there who are really struggling,” Liriano said, a senior at St. Francis Preparatory School.
According to the Coalition for the Homeless, over 60,000 people sleep in NYC shelters and the number of homeless people in cities across the globe continues to hit record highs with each passing year.
Disturbed by what she saw participating in runs with her school, Liriano felt that “as a community we should be doing more.” Within a span of weeks, Liriano researched and organized volunteers at Bhuvaneshwar Mandir to collect and sort clothes, gloves, hats, scarves, and toiletries – assembling approximately 300 care packages.
“Some people told me that this was a good idea, but not realistic because ‘homeless people are dangerous,’” Liriano admitted. But everyone has gone through something that has changed them, and “the truth of the matter is that we do not know these peoples’ stories or their struggles, and it is definitely not our place to judge.
Sometimes people are just trying to get by. As humans, it’s our moral obligation to help.”
Approximately 40 volunteers assembled at Bhuvaneshwar Mandir just before midnight to plan their navigations before loading six vehicles with the items along with sandwiches to be distributed.
Despite ongoing torrential rainstorms, vehicles dispersed to the wee corners of the city. But as the night progressed, it became evident that the run was a fulfilling and deeply moving experience for everyone involved.
Kumar Sanichar, one head chef at Bhuvaneshwar Mandir, confessed he was brought to tears as a homeless, young Asian adult mouthed the words, “I love you,” upon being handed something to eat. “I couldn’t contain myself,” Sanichar revealed, “that kid was so appreciative for a small meal.”
Even eight-year-old Lilly Basdeo — one of the youngest volunteers – was able to feel the magnitude of the mission’s impact. She noted that the bags were “full of blessings!”
Volunteers ended the night donating leftover goods to the New York City Rescue Mission, located at 90 Lafayette Street, New York City, and Stockholm Family Shelter in Brooklyn.
Acharya Arun Gossai, spiritual leader of Bhuvaneshwar Mandir, was extremely proud of the volunteers who made great efforts to make others comfortable and happy. “The Bhuvaneshwar family realizes that service to the people is the highest prayer. The kindness and selflessness that was spread in this initiative is an extension of what we believe people should be doing in the world,” he emphasized.
Bhuvaneshwar Mandir is grateful to all who were willing to help and sacrifice their time, and hopes that this will be one relief mission of many to come.