CBS Philly celebrates Black History Month with these profiles of notable Philadelphia “gamechangers,” people and organizations making a difference in the lives of the city’s African-Americans.
By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Rev. Brian Jenkins is changing the game for Philadelphia’s homeless and hungry, one meal at a time.
“A lot of people look at us as ‘the feeders,’ ” says Jenkins, “but we don’t feed people. When you go to the zoo, you feed the animals. We believe in serving people and giving them quality meals.”
Jenkins and his wife, Shandai, founded Chosen 300 Ministries in 1996 when they gave a homeless man a meal after leaving the Merriam Theatre on Broad Street one evening.
Since then, Jenkins says, he hasn’t missed a day providing food and spiritual support for Philadelphia’s homeless — year round, both indoors and outdoors, rain or shine.
“We distribute over 100,000 meals a year to the homeless and to a lot of less fortunate families who are making a lot of tough decisions right now,” says Jenkins. “It stimulates folks to make moves to self-sufficiency, with the hope to do it.”
The nonprofit also provides job readiness, interview training, and life skills workshops. It has 19 locations worldwide, with three in Philadelphia.
In 2012, Chosen 300 changed the game for homeless individuals who get their meals outside. The group sued the City of Philadelphia in federal court, challenging the city’s ban on outdoor feedings.
In June of 2012, a city ordinance had gone into effect outlawing the outdoor feedings of large groups of people on city parkland (see related story). The ministry was known to serve meals to the homeless on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and argued that the ban violated their right to free speech and freedom of religion (related story). They won (another related story).
“It was standing up for civil rights,” says Jenkins. “Not just for the homeless, but also the right to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ out in the open and in public space.”
The group also has invested $300,000 in a new indoor space to serve meals, and is working with the City of Philadelphia and other advocates to create more indoor space for those in need.
“I think I have made a statement of protection for those in need,” says Jenkins.
Listen to the extended CBS Philly interview about “Chosen 300 Ministries” (runs 7:58)…