Fall 2009 Issue

Walking the talk

Students from the School of Podiatric Medicine Class of 2012 serve dinner to approximately 500 homeless men, women and children at Community Partnership for the Homeless in Overtown July 19. Pictured on the top row (left to right) are: Allyssa Knowles, Titorya Stover, Roma Patel, Supreme Dorvil, Marien Rodriguez, Mithil Patel, Danielle Green, Krista Howard and Alvin Kowans. In the bottom row are: Mohaned Eltahir, Jawad Malik and Abinash Mishra.

Last spring, podiatry students Mo Eltahir and William Hassner were looking for a way to give back to their community when they had a chance encounter with a woman named Kim Coe at a local Baskin Robbins.

The trio started talking, and Coe told them she was a member of the Miami Shores Presbyterian Church and was waiting for a friend to go with her to help feed the homeless at a local shelter. It is something she’s done at least once a month for the past 13 years. She then asked Eltahir and Hassner if they wanted to come along.

“We kind of thought she was joking at first, then we saw she was serious,” Eltahir said.

But not only was she serious, Eltahir and Hassner were also serious. So serious that several weeks later they rounded up 15 podiatry students from the Class of 2012 to volunteer at the shelter.

And since that day in June, the students have returned to the Community Partnership for the Homeless in Overtown on the third Sunday of every month to serve dinner to approximately 500 homeless men, women and children.

The students don aprons and plastic caps and offer service with a smile. They engage in conversation with the homeless; some of whom have lived on the streets for years. Others, like 63-year-old Virgil Roberts, found themselves on the streets after an unexpected job loss.

“Once you lose your job and your apartment, you lose your friends,” said Rogers, a private school teacher who lost his job after he acquired a case of diverticulitis. Unable to pay his rent, he found himself living on the streets.

Under circumstances like these, a simple act of kindness – such as serving dinner with a smile – can make a world of difference in somebody’s life.

“These kids brightened my day,” said Johnny Harris, 63, another shelter client. “They bring a lot of life to this place.”

Normally, people line up cafeteria-style to receive their food. But on days when the podiatry students volunteer they often walk into the dining room, sit at a table and allow the students to serve them dinner.

“It makes them feel as if they are in a restaurant,” Coe said. “Most of them haven’t been to a restaurant in years.”

While the project began with the Class of 2012, the Barry chapter of the Student National Podiatric Medical Association (SNPMA) took over the project this fall, ensuring that it will continue after Eltahir and his classmates graduate.

“I just wish that everybody would take some initiative to give back to the community and make it a better place for everybody,” Eltahir said.