VENTNOR — At 11 a.m. each morning, Liz Schneider and Jill Plotnick load up Schneider’s car with lunches for the homeless.
The two make their way from Schneider’s Troy Avenue home in Ventnor to the Atlantic City Bus Terminal on Atlantic Avenue.
Four months after the inception of Street Love, people recognize the car and, on Wednesday, began running up to it in anticipation of a hot meal.
“It makes me want to cry,” said Plotnick, 54. “I feel like I’m very grateful for what I have in my life, and (I think about) how a lot of times I take for granted what I have and how easy it is to help somebody else. It’s so easy, and it makes me feel that I wish I could do more.”
The early stages of what would become this grassroots organization began shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the state.
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Wanting to help the community in some way, Schneider put a great deal of thought into where she should focus her efforts until it finally hit her.
“It just kind of came to me (and I said), ‘Oh my God, these poor people,’” said Schneider, 55. “‘Are they even getting food with everything shut down?’ So I went in my kitchen and started getting some food together and I drove to the train station and I asked them, ‘Are you hungry?’ They were so hungry, and I just left the food there.”
Plotnick noticed Schneider loading up her car one day and asked her about it. It became a two-person operation right then and there.
Contact with the people at the station was initially kept to a minimum, and few words were ever exchanged.
After some time, however, they began to open up about their lives and how they got into their respective situations. The two women, who live in Philadelphia most of the year and come to Ventnor in the summer, view them as friends above all else now.
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“When I first met them, they really didn’t look at me and I didn’t look at them,” Schneider said. “I would leave the food on the curb, really because of the pandemic, and now we stand around and we talk and then they take the food and then we leave.”
Those at the station also expressed genuine care for Schneider and Plotnick, the two said. Ahead of Fourth of July weekend, they advised Schneider and Plotnick not to come into the city for fear of potential riots stemming from a protest in the area that ultimately yielded seven arrests.
It wouldn’t take long for the rest of the block to take notice of the efforts of the two.
Suddenly, what was once a team of two included at least eight families on Troy Avenue. About 30 people now help out with food, clothing and other supplies needed by the homeless.
Thanks to a neighbor that runs a sock factory, the daily deliveries include food and socks, which Plotnick said is the most requested item by people at the station. A group of neighborhood children last Thursday dropped off hairbrushes and ponchos because of the heavy showers earlier.
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To raise money for more supplies, Plotnick started making and selling bracelets. Anyone interested in purchasing one or making a donation can contact them on their Instagram account @streetheartlove609.
Now, the licensed organization has enough members to fill out a board of directors. Schneider is the president and founder, while Plotnick is vice president.
Seeing how close it can bring a community together, their hope is to one day make Street Love a national organization to support homeless all over the country.
“We’ve seen how it’s brought our block together,” Plotnick said. “We want to literally spread blocks of compassion across the country.”
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