Tracy Organ Cease spends every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Northside Common Ministries kitchen preparing lunch. Coffee in hand, he also meets with his lunchtime diners and makes sure they’re connected to any other services they may need.
“It’s very humbling to be at the point where you may need to go and get this kind of assistance to be able to eat today,” Cease said.
And Cease would know. It wasn’t long ago that he was the one getting a free lunch, rather than making it. That’s why he tries to provide an inviting atmosphere to those he serves.
“Hey let’s just have a good time,” Cease said, addressing a lunch crowd, which can include people into their 60s. “It’s not about who’s starving and who’s not. There’s food here, let’s eat.”
He’ll also makes a breakfast for anyone who stops by the Brighton Road facility.
Cease now has a job and home of his own. But Northside Common Ministries Director Jay Poliziani said Cease still spends time with the homeless in their camps.
“He really has a good understanding of how these people are struggling and he makes them feel at home and welcome when they are here,” Poliziani said. “So it’s not just another social service agency throwing some food on the table for them, but really connecting with them in a different way.”
Cease said when he was homeless, he found it difficult to find information on job training, housing support and counseling.
“So we give information to the guys in the morning,” he said.
Most of the food Cease cooks with is donated by individuals or restaurants offering leftovers, so he never knows what he’ll find. Despite that, he’s always able to pull together a tasty meal and lunchtime regulars rave about Cease’s food. Popular items include his fried fish, meatballs and macaroni.
“We work with what we have,” Cease said. “We have been blessed, we always have enough.”