“The community of Maspeth has been extremely supportive,” he said. “They basically are the reason we can do it.”
The program, now in its fourth year, is funded through donations from the community, he said, including food from the Fame Diner on Grand Avenue, cold cuts from local delis and socks from the Maspeth Moose Lodge.
On Mondays, 12 volunteers serve food to an average of 15 homeless and others in need from Maspeth, Elmhurst and Woodside.
“They get a hot meal, which frequently involves soup and some cooked meat like meatloaf or hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, potatoes and beans,” Griffin said.
While they eat, volunteers go around to the tables and offer counseling.
“It’s not just to give them food, which helps, but it’s also to see if we can help change their lifestyle a little bit through counseling and through talking with them,” he said, “so that we can help them maybe leave the streets in the future.”
On Tuesday, three or four volunteers pile into a 1996 white Toyota for the outreach half of the program. They drive around to designated spots to offer food, clothing and soup to homeless and immigrants in Maspeth, Elmhurst and Woodside.
Griffin, who spent 10 years working with Catholic Charities as a director for its homeless outreach program before founding Project HOPE, said volunteers usually help about 40 people per Tuesday.
“We know where to find them and they have gotten used to us,” he said, “so they see that car coming, they come basically running to the car.”
In the future, Griffin said he’d like to do more outreach and counseling, and wants more homeless to visit the soup kitchen on Mondays. In addition, he said the group could use another volunteer on Tuesdays.
Mondays have enough volunteers, he said, but HOPE wouldn’t turn anyone away who’s willing to help.
“They tell me they love doing it,” Griffin said, “so we’ve got happy volunteers.”