Annual Picnic in Rittenhouse Park

It's a Friday and the weather isn't 'on fire' hot for once. The office is quiet, for now. I'm the second one here at 8am. Danggit. The Team 4 CPS beat me here. That's ok. We get started setting up the tables and wrapping them with plastic wrap. We set chairs up to hold the boxes of potato chips, granola bars, bags, and napkins. Then, another arrival, the ATL from Team 2, then another, a staff psychiatrist. Together, we start an assembly line of sandwiches. Lots of sandwiches. Ham, roast beef, and turkey on white and wheat, with and without cheese. We use some groceries the other CIC and I bought the day before. We use some groceries donated by one of our landlords. An hour into our assembly of sandwiches and bagged lunches, our lead participant arrives. He's been with Pathways since just about the beginning. He has over 20 years in the restaurant industry under his belt and he uses those skills in our space often. Now the smell of gourmet roasted veggie sandwiches began to fill the office. The last steps are cutting the watermelons into slices and packing the cases of Capri-suns bought from SHARE on ice.
It's three hours and we've done all the prep just as participants start to arrive for office hours. An hour later about 10 of us are on the subway heading to Rittenhouse Square while others ride with the food to meet us there. We'll meet even more there. Some coming from working in our community garden that morning and others who just meet us there. We all know the spot. It's where so many  spent time before being housed. Some still hang out there to enjoy the park as well as socialize with past and present buddies. We spread out donated blankets on a big patch of grass and begin to relax. Staffers and participants hang out in the shade laughing and joking and just enjoying the day. The park rangers come over and our lead participant greets them like old friends, thanks them for looking out for us, offers them lunches, and shakes hands before they walk away smiling. Each lunch has a 'which would you rather' question in it and some are discovering them and asking each other the questions. 
The atmosphere is fun and light. A few currently homeless people wonder up asking for a lunch which is freely shared by PTH participants who remember being like them like it was yesterday, for some it was yesterday. This picnic is an annual event that we all talk about for weeks after. It's our annual family picnic.
Submitted by Shera Simon, Community Integrations Coordinator

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