It all started with one small idea to bring some food, and some hope, to the homeless in Kensington- people Megan Cohen had connected with after living on the streets herself. She had no idea how big it would become. Now Megan is awaiting non-profit tax exemption status for The Grace Project, which has become a full-fledged volunteer and donation-based program that provides amenities to less fortunate people of all kinds; people she can relate to. Megan is no stranger to hard times or to loss of hope.
”Growing up, my mom struggled. She worked [hard] to try to provide the things we needed and try to provide a little extra. Our house was flooded [two different times]. We lost everything. We didn’t have any place to live.”
Knowing what it is like to have little allows Megan to understand why it’s important to give back when you can.
“I’ve seen all ends of losing hope for different reasons, whether it was a drug addiction, or natural causes… I’ve seen what it does to somebody when they’re losing hope. I know what it is to feel totally helpless and I want people to know they’re not alone.”
Megan always felt the call to help people, but she was caught up in her addiction. In 2019 she found herself “totally homeless.”
“I was sleeping on the streets. I didn’t have a car, didn’t have anything.”
Without her knowing it, this became a turning point in her life.
”This last time around, before I went to jail, I called my mom and asked her to come get me, and I asked her to bring food [for the people that I had been homeless with], because I knew what it was like. She brought food out, and we were able to give it to the people before I left.
And I said, ‘I’m going to come back here. One of these days I’m going to get it together and I’m going to try to help these people because now I have personal connections with them, and I know they’re not bad people, they’re just sick.’”
And that’s exactly what she did.
“Around a year sober my mom texted me and said, ‘Do you want to go out to Kensington and bring some food out, ‘ and I said, ‘Yeah.’”
On August 9 , Megan posted on her Facebook page, asking if anyone wanted to join them or donate food to the cause. The response was overwhelming, and the following Thursday, August 13 , they made their first trip to Kensington, handing out over 100 bags of food, countless drinks, and 40 hygiene kits which included drawstring bags, antibacterial wipes, deodorant, brushes, etc. Donations kept coming, and they were able to go back out the next Thursday and have been doing so every Thursday since.
“It took off. And within two weeks the Grace Project was born. At that point I had been saving money to move out of the recovery house I was in, so I pushed back moving out so that I could pay to make everything official- file for non-profit status and get all the paper work.”
Megan never set out to start a non-profit. She just wanted to help people who were struggling, as she had. But something bigger was at work. Though she may be the driving force behind The Grace Project, she will tell you that she is not the only reason it exists. It is the donations from others that allow them to feed 200-250 people every week, and it is the volunteers who make delivering the food and other items possible. Volunteers who can relate to the people they are serving.
“I’ve been homeless in many areas and I’ve been to so many treatment centers. I couldn’t get 30 days together clean to save my life. And I didn’t know why. And most people who are a part of The Grace Project can relate on some level.”
Every week Megan and the rest of the crew drive to the same spot and set up, handing out food, blankets, warm clothes, and hygiene kits to those who are living on the street. (They bring food every Thursday, and hygiene kits every other Thursday). It is important to Megan that they are consistent, so that people can expect them to be there.
“We go out every single week at the same time, rain or shine.”
For Thanksgiving, they brought a warm meal, consisting of turkey, potatoes,
and other vegetable sides. They are planning to do the same type of thing for Christmas.
They are also broadening their reach with a Holiday fundraiser to benefit local families in need.
“We’ll see how much we get, and we’ll help as many families as we can for whatever holiday they celebrate. The money will be used to provide whatever the family decides- whether it’s a big meal and some toys for the kids, or whatever it is they need.”