BY KANSAS GUIDRYDecember 9, 2015

Editor’s Note: Today’s 15-16 ISN Media Team post is from Kansas Guidry, a political science major at Fordham University and public radio reporter. We are proud to feature her latest story on one Bronx non-profit that is working to make a difference. 

BRONX, NEW YORK — Taina Rodriguez was just 11 years old when her family first started visiting a non-profit with a curious name: POTS. She thought she was visiting a restaurant. She enjoyed the place so much that she asked for a job. That Saturday she showed up for duty and quickly asked about her paycheck. When she found out the position was strictly volunteer, she figured out something was up.

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POTS provides an array of services to those in crisis, including its renowned food service program.

POTS, or Part of the Solution is a nonprofit organization that serves the immediate needs of the Northwest Bronx community. It’s known as a “one-stop shop” that provides a wide variety of services to help transition people out of a crisis. The Food Kitchen prides itself on its restaurant-style atmosphere. Volunteers show the guests to their table and bring their meals, drinks, and desserts to the table.

I’m not surprised Rodriguez thought her family was visiting a restaurant. When I recently visited the dining room, I was struck by the comforting ambience. Six large tables lend themselves to family dining and encourage a sense of community and camaraderie. A large chalkboard on the wall boasts a new inspiring quote every day. The staff and volunteers are friendly and welcoming. There’s no sense of division as everyone comes together to share in a meal. In New York City, it can be hard to find a place this welcoming. POTS certainly fills that role.

Rodriguez joined the staff when she was 14. She never left.

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Taina Rodriguez has worked at POTS since she was 14 years old.

“I was supposed to be an attorney,” Rodriguez said. “That was my passion, but instead, God brought me to POTS for a particular reason and I wanted to make the same change for other families that had been done for my family.”

Now she’s the Emergency Food Programs Coordinator, in charge of the food kitchen and food pantry. Under her careful watch, POTS serves 425 to 600 meals per day. No one is ever turned away. There are no questions asked as they welcome anyone through their open doors. The food pantry is set up like a grocery store, and families use shopping cards to get nine meals per family member per month.

The organization doesn’t just work to respond to hunger. They provide a wide range of services including medical and dental services, clothing services, legal casework, showers, and haircuts. They pride themselves that they don’t have a target population. If there’s a need in their community, they try to answer it.

“It’s just nice to see a place that’s not only open for all, but doesn’t push people to what they should be. Instead, we just let them know that we’re here and what’s available to them to decide which way they want to go,” Rodriguez said.

She recalls the story of one client, a homeless man who was also battling drug addiction and mental illness. They followed his case carefully for three years and were able to guide him through the process of finding his own apartment.

But even when he was moved into the apartment, he still did not sleep in his new rooms for a year. Because of the damage he faced by spending so many years living on the street, he actually slept on his apartment building’s roof for a whole year.

Still, POTS wasn’t ready to give up on him. They continued to give him the help he needed until he eventually received the needed benefits and stability to transition into his new housing. Now, he’s fully self-sufficient and visits POTS once or twice a year to say hello and to express his gratitude.

That’s just one of the 25,000 people per year that POTS serves, a number that includes 8,000 children. Amid the holidays, Rodriguez is starting to see an increase in generosity. On one hand, she loves holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. There’s a definite increase in donations to their many programs. However, she wishes that generosity would work throughout the year instead of being limited to the holidays.

“If what happened in November and December, would happen all year long, there wouldn’t be so many people in need. We could make a real difference in people’s lives. Most people report that their children go at least one to two days per month without eating one meal because of the lack of access to food,” Rodriguez said.

It’s been twenty years since Rodriguez started working at POTS, but she still loves it everyday.

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Kansas Guidry is a junior at Fordham University studying political science. She is originally from New Orleans where she lives with her mother, sister, and grandparents. After she graduates, she hopes to attend law school. Kansas is a reporter at WFUV, an NPR-affiliated public radio station located in the Bronx, and the Chair of Media Ministers for her school’s liturgical board. She is committed to working for social justice, and as the secretary of Circle K, she participates in and helps to organize a wide variety of service events. She is currently in the process of starting a branch of Food Recovery Network at Fordham which will deliver the leftover food from school dining services and bring them to local community partners.

Kansas Guidry

Kansas Guidry is a junior at Fordham University studying political science. She‘s originally from New Orleans where she lives with her mother, sister, and grandparents. After she graduates, she hopes to attend law school. Kansas is a reporter at WFUV, an NPR affiliated public radio station located in the Bronx, and the Chair of Media Ministers for her school’s liturgical board. She’s committed to working for social justice. As the secretary of Circle K, she participates in and helps to organize a wide variety of service events. She is currently in the process of starting a branch of Food Recovery Network at Fordham which will deliver the leftover food from school dining services and bring them to local community partners.

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