For generations the Bowery Mission’s doors have been open to the homeless and hungry in New York City. This month, in celebration of its 130th anniversary, they’re inviting the community to walk through those doors, as well, to tour the Mission and to take part in a month-long series of special performances.
The free series (offered every Thursday in October) begins tonight at 7, as actress Ann Nelson and musician Tim Mercaldo recreate the life of Fanny Crosby, America’s most prolific hymn writer. Next week, it’s a night of Bowery stories, poetry and art. On October 15th, there will be a screening of the 1957 film, “On the Bowery,” a documentary that depicted life on “America’s most notorious street.” And at the end of the month, filmmaker Scott Elliott presents his 2002 documentary about the Bowery Mission. Each Thursday, before and after the arts series, tours will be offered (from 6:30-7pm and 8:30 to 9).
James Macklin of the Bowery Mission
Yesterday afternoon, sitting in the restored Gothic Revival Chapel, James Macklin, director of outreach, talked about the Bowery Mission’s legacy and its unique role in a changing community. Back in 1987, he walked into this chapel for the first time, having spent the previous night sleeping on the A train. Macklin, who’d lost his business and succumbed to cocaine, says it was a lifeline he’ll never forget. Last year, the Mission provided homeless men and women with 362,000 meals, 78,500 nights of shelter and 50,000 articles of clothing.
Acknowledging the transformation the Bowery has undergone in the past 20 years, Macklin told me the Mission’s place in the community has only been strengthened. “There are always those who are disenfranchised,” he said. As the economy soured, and other shelters shut down, the Bowery Mission has taken on a greater burden. Ironically, gentrification has caused its neighbors to rally around an institution that, in many ways, embodies both the Lower East Side’s past and present. Macklin said longtime residents continue to support the Mission, as they always have – while new friends like Whole Foods, have become important allies in the fight against hunger and hopelessness.
If you would like to become involved, the Bowery Mission could still use some volunteers for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. There’s also the Bowery Mission’s Young Philanthropists program. For more information on the Mission’s programs and the arts series, click here.