PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "This is the best part of my whole week every week," said Jeanne Rodrigues.
Every Sunday, Rodrigues and an entourage of volunteers roll up to the corner of 20th and Race Streets in Center City, Philadelphia. Within a half hour, they pour hundreds of food items into the hands of the homeless and hungry.
"I've learned that people really want to help," she said. "So if you give them an outlet, they jump on board."
Rodrigues worked with another organization distributing meals in LOVE Park for about 7 years before branching out and founding "For the Love of Pete's Pantry." The non-profit is named after her father, who passed away in 2000. It partners with other local organizations, restaurants, and hospitals to aggregate donations for their weekly distributions.
The New York branch was opened during 2020 and the West Berlin, New Jersey, branch was opened in 2021.
"And in a year we've probably grown from serving 30 people to about 75 to 100 every Sunday," said Rodrigues. "The fact that we're seeing so many more people just emphasizes how bad the situation is."
Volunteer Danny West never misses a weekend because he understands how much it means to each recipient.
"I was out here once. I was like this once before, so I know how it feels," said West. "It's kind of strenuous."
West helped Rodrigues identify Aviator Park as a popular place where homeless individuals congregate. He remembers what it was like to walk in their shoes.
"At one time, I wanted to quit. But with Jeanne's help and her talking and me listening, I wouldn't give up," he said. "Now, we're just giving back what was given to us."
For the Love of Pete's Pantry distributes all of their donated items each week, so it is a cycle that constantly needs support. After a one-week vacation on July 3, they will return to feeding the homeless and hungry every single Sunday. Before then, the non-profit will visit St. Christopher's Hospital to provide Fourth-of-July blankets to the PICU.
Each week is unique with its menu. For example, volunteers cooked and distributed hot dogs today while Allie Steinbach from Shear Pi'zaaz Hair Salon provided free haircuts.
To learn more about For the Love of Pete's Pantry or get involved, visit their website.
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