Every day, Brian Vickery sees the hardships and generosity of the community as they intersect at his downtown soup and sandwich shop.
Vickery has started a “pending meal” program to help anyone currently down on their luck.
On Jan. 7, Vickery was out walking his dog and noticed people living in a tent in a park on London Road.
“A few minutes later a lady I know was also walking her dog and recognized me,” he said. “She gave me $20 and said she’d like me to use it to buy food for anyone who needs it.”
Thus began a program in which anyone can donate a soup or sandwich at the deli for anyone else who can use a free meal.
“It just took off. My phone rang off the hook for two days,” he said. Within days, enough money was donated for 700 deli sandwiches and 1,200 bowls of soup.
Vickery and his staff place post-it notes on a board for pre-paid soups, sandwiches and combos, which can be removed and handed in.
Community generosity has resulted in a big surplus of free meals, and he hopes getting the word out will see more of them redeemed.
“I just love this,” said Audrey Kelway, a manager at River City Vineyard, where 26 men find shelter each night. “I applaud Brian for this. It’s a really nice blessing for people.”
River City Vineyard provides meals for all its shelter residents, as well as some who come in off the streets. But Kelway said many homeless people spend their days and night downtown.
“There are true street people who we don’t often see and they need to eat too,” she said.
Some meal recipients are from River City, Vickery said.
“It’s been a reality check on how fortunate I am. One gentleman came in and got a sandwich. I asked him if he’d be OK for the night and he looked at me and said he probably wouldn’t get a bed at any shelter because the beds are so full.
“He said he had a good spot outside. From my end, that’s very humbling.”
All donors impress him, but one 11-year-old boy was especially noteworthy. Byron Chu walked in with $60 he earned through his Do Rite candle business.
“It’s just really nice to see,” said Vickery. “We’re going to keep this going year-round. People are struggling and need help.”
He stressed the meal program is not just for the homeless.
“It’s for everyone. If you’re a single parent and can’t afford a meal out for your family, or if you’ve lost your job because of COVID, we’re trying to help everyone.”
Some churches are assisting as well, including Dunlop United, which donated homemade cloth masks.
Vick’s Corner Deli is at the intersection of Cromwell and Christina. Donating a soup costs $3, a sandwich is $5, or $8 for a combo.