When I attended an event in September to network, I instinctively jotted down some notes for work, too.
And now, for the past three weeks, every time I thumb through that notebook in search of stuff reported since, one particular note jumps out: a lone quote about a pot of chili, but I hadn’t been able to connect the words to person, place or time. “The line lasted longer than the pot of chili,” it says.
I know what happened. The words were uttered after I closed my notebook. In haste, I’d re-opened it to an empty page, flanked only by other empty pages, and scribbled.
Last week, Peggy Tatum, founder and owner of The Connection Place, publisher of TCP Magazine, got in touch because the Rev. Phillip Brickle of Lost Sheep Outreach Ministry needed to reach me.
My chat with both solved the lone-quote mystery.
I’d met Brickle at that event back in September when Tatum honored Brickle as Raleigh’s Hometown Hero, an award she pioneered in TCP’s partnership with Fayetteville radio station WIDU-1600 AM. To enhance the station’s annual anniversary Vision Tour – a multi-state, multi-city trek of practical and spiritual outreach to the homeless, Tatum scours each city for an unsung Hometown Hero who volunteers service to the homeless.
“I’d been watching him from a distance for about two or three years now,” Tatum said of Brickle, noting that the 24-city tour in the Carolinas, Florida and Virginia unveiled 27 Hometown Heroes. “He is doing so many things on a large scale – continuously,” she added. “It was time for him to be recognized.”
But that’s not even the story Brickle wants me to share with y’all.
Each Thanksgiving Day for the past seven years, he began, James Lee, owner of The End Zone in Tower Shopping Center, opens his doors to Brickle and Lost Sheep to feed the homeless and others without family or food to enjoy.
With about 100 volunteers and countless donations from helpers everywhere, Lost Sheep averages about 150 guests for a “great, big Thanksgiving celebration,” said Brickle, 58.
The menu includes turkey, ham, potatoes, salads, string beans, corn, other vegetables and fixings, and desserts.
“That’s the only day I can really give something back,” said Lee, 53, a native New Yorker who moved to Raleigh and opened The End Zone eight years ago. “When you look at it, it’s an awesome feeling to see that many people come in each year on Thanksgiving and so many other people come in to take care of the people in need.
“It’s such an awesome feeling, you just can’t stop,” Lee said. “I’m looking forward to it every year.”
Often, Thanksgiving guests arrive by car or a bus that Lost Sheep volunteers shuttle from downtown. Lee hopes more people will come this year, not just the homeless, but also senior citizens and anyone else who’s hungry or alone.
“Those are the people I want to reach, too,” Lee said.
Brickle has been feeding the homeless for 18 years now. Before settling in at The End Zone, the feast was held for men, women and children at the men’s shelter on South Wilmington Street.
As Tatum recognized, Brickle’s ministry serves our homeless neighbors in other ways, too.
From 7 to 9 p.m. on Mondays, Brickle hosts 60-80 people for a worship service – complete with a “bagged lunch,” hygiene products, spiritual literature and snacks – at The Gathering Place on Sunnybrook Road. On Nov. 8 Lost Sheep handed out over 2½ tons of food, and coats, shoes and clothes. On Dec. 13 Lost Sheep will host its annual Wrapping Party and wrap over 5,000 gifts of Christmas cheer to give away the following day to homeless and other families in need. The celebration is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Christ Our King Community Church on Garner Road. The free event includes entertainment, grooming services, flu shots and blood pressure checks, dinner, gifts – and a chance to choose, sign and mail holiday cards to family.
It all started back in 1996 – with, yes, that pot of chili that was outlasted by the line.
Back then Brickle, only three months sober from a 20-year heroin addiction, had just started Lost Sheep and decided to expand his ministry to feed and help the homeless.
To get everybody out of the shelters that day, he and “others who had the same spirit,” took a big pot of chili to Moore Square and fed as many people as they could.
“We couldn’t feed everybody, but it really gave us a heart to continue,” said Brickle. “Here we are 18 years later.”
And he’s serving our neighbors in need more than chili.