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On a Mission to Help the Homeless Brave the Pandemic in Florida

Southern  |  September 3, 2020
Tzu Chi volunteer and office director of Tzu Chi USA’s Miami Service Center, Mingzhe Lin (right), and Rene Yacinthe (left), Executive Director of the Jubilee Center of South Broward, rejoice in their collaboration to aid the homeless in the City of Hollywood, north of Miami.

Written by Jennifer Chien and Pheel Wang
Translated by Penny Liu
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

Early in the morning in Miami on July 21, 2020, a raging fire was heating a large wok in a Chinese restaurant’s kitchen. Chef Yang, wearing a black tank top, was stir-frying rice into an appetizing golden color, while sweat accumulated on his brow. Tzu Chi volunteer and  office director of Tzu Chi USA’s Miami Service Center, Mingzhe Lin, patiently waited by his side.

Chef Yang cooks a large batch of vegetarian fried rice early in the morning on July 21. Photo / Judy Su
Mingzhe Lin, office director of Tzu Chi USA’s Miami Service Center, waits for Chef Yang to finish preparing the hot meal for distribution. Photo / Judy Su

As soon as the chef turned off the heat and transferred the steaming and tasty vegetarian fried rice into two big steel containers, Mingzhe immediately departed with them. He made haste to deliver the hot meal to the Jubilee Center of South Broward in Hollywood, a beachfront community located midway between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, before 9:00 AM.

A Parent Doing His Part to Help the Most Vulnerable in His Community

This July in Florida was anything but peaceful. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 per day had reached over 10,000, frequently breaking U.S. records for single-day infection rate. At a certain point, Florida overtook New York and ranked second (behind California) in total confirmed cases.

In response to this crisis, Chef Yang, whose child attends Tzu Chi Academy in Miami, and who has seriously adopted Tzu Chi’s philosophy of seizing opportunities to help those in need, sought a way to be of assistance to those severely impacted by this pandemic.

Although his restaurant’s business has also been adversely affected, he volunteered to donate his time and resources when he learned of the efforts that volunteers from Tzu Chi USA’s Miami Service Center had set in motion to support the homeless in the area. The meal he was preparing on July 21 was his way of joining the mission.

Once he’d finish cooking then packing the meal for transport, it would be on its way to the Jubilee Center of South Broward. His donation of hot food would join the other goods provided that day, as part of Tzu Chi volunteers’ third visit to the Jubilee Center. They were bringing the fried rice, along with 1,000 masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, and additional food items.

Chef Yang and Mingzhe Lin finish loading the containers of fried rice for delivery to the Jubilee Center of South Broward, where the meal will be served to the homeless. Photo / Judy Su
Tzu Chi volunteers pack PPE and other food items for delivery to the Jubilee Center of South Broward. Photo / Judy Su

In fact, the venue for this distribution is itself of tremendous support to the community during the pandemic. Tzu Chi volunteer Judy Su explained that the Jubilee Center’s efforts on behalf of those most vulnerable had truly touched people’s hearts. While most homeless shelters suspended their operations and would not accept new clients, the center continues to take in new residents and make them feel welcome and supported.

Offering a Sense of Belonging

In the warm sunshine state of Florida, many homeless people live in the beach parks along the coast of cities like Miami. The Jubilee Center is located near the Hollywood Beach area north of Miami and has been serving the poor and homeless residents of Broward County since 1984.

Even before the pandemic, the Jubilee Center of South Broward had been providing many resources to the homeless, including allowing them to use the center’s address as their contact address. This support helps ease some of the daily challenges this population faces, and brings a sense of belonging. The center currently offers hot lunch, social services, food distributions, legal consultations, and other services to those in need of assistance.

The Jubilee Center of South Broward. Photo / Judy Su

As always, when Tzu Chi volunteers arrive, the Executive Director of the Jubilee Center of South Broward, Rene Yacinthe, and his staff happily welcome them. Grabbing the containers of hot fried rice, a Jubilee Center volunteer immediately took them back to the kitchen, where she prepared to serve lunch for the homeless, which the center does daily at 11 AM.

After receiving the containers of freshly made fried rice, a Jubilee Center volunteer prepares to serve lunch for the homeless. Photo / Judy Su
Rene Yacinthe (left), Executive Director of the Jubilee Centerof South Broward, explains the center's services to Tzu Chi volunteer Mingzhe Lin (right).

Endless Circle of Care

While the meal service was underway, Rene Yacinthe received the urgently needed personal protective equipment that the Tzu Chi volunteers had also brought for the Jubilee Center – masks, gloves, hand sanitizers – and joyfully raised his hands and cheered.

Mingzhe Lin was equally thrilled, having made these supplies, and the hot meal provided by Chef Yang, available. And, he was quick to give credit to everyone who contributed to making the donation possible: “This is all thanks to the PPE provided by volunteers all over the world, the donations from the local community, and the support from the parents of Tzu Chi Academy. This cycle of love will always continue.”

You, too, can join this circle of care by supporting our Together While Apart: Compassion for the Long Haul aid campaign.  Let’s make sure to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities while the pandemic continues, affecting us all.

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