Chicago Air Feeds Staten Island

On Local page 1, the June 2nd edition of the New York Times: Chicago Air Feeds Staten Island's Abandoned.

Story by Hope Kelly, Photography by Faith Kelly.


STATEN ISLAND - For some of the poor, hungry, and homeless people that now call Staten Island their home, the bowl of soup and crust of bread is the first real meal they've had in days, months, or even years. For at least one recipient, the steaming hot soup, provided by Chicago Air free of charge, was a physical symbol of hope.

"There's a poem about hope being a thing with feathers, but for me, hope is this here bowl of soup. I know I can get a meal now, when everything else is down and out. At least I don't have to be hungry," said Melvin Brown, a 55 year old who has lived in Staten Island for the past three years. His home was lost in the 2006 explosion. "I lost everything. I do what I can to get by but some days there's just not enough food for all of us lost souls here abouts. Chicago Air? I didn't know much about them, but they is guardian angels in my mind."

Since Friday, ten vans have been distributing soup, bottled water and bread across the island. The drivers of the vans determine their routes and how long to stay at any given destination. Each van is manned by a driver, two servers, and a navigator, all volunteers. Two vans are set up at a stationary camp at Miller Park so that there is a permanent location for hungry island residents to find a meal, according to the chief pilot, Petter Kobrin. The food is brought over to the island by Chicago Air pilots who are paid.

The Airline does this all through charitable donations, but hopes to be able to reach more of the needy soon. "There are a lot more than we can hit with ten vans. We're running pretty much all day, every day. A hundred vans wouldn't be enough," Kobrin said. "Chicago Air can only afford ten trucks though. We're taking donations, but they've been slow."

With more partnerships and more money, the organization's leaders hope to accomplish much more than a simple soup kitchen, however. Kobrin said they plan to reintroduce trade to the island.

"Once we prove the island isn't Mad Max, we're going to try and attract corporate retail partners. We supply them for real cheap, and they sell stuff on the island. Eventually we'd like to fix Staten," Kobrin said.

According to the CEO of Chicago Air Fedor Ibragimov, the charitable work of the organization is simply a way to help those on Staten Island pursue happiness. "All men have the same inherent right to a decent shot at prosperity. It is unacceptable to let some prosper whilst others suffer but for simple lack of effort."

An eclectic mix of hungry make up the lines waiting to be served the hot steaming soup, but they all have one thing in common: they are hungry and they appreciate the food. For some, it was the first hot meal they have had in days, weeks or even months. Some have had to resort to stealing food just to survive, but now they can rest easy that meals will be provided for them.

One young man, Toru Arai, 20, said the soup was good. "Free food is free food, right? I ain't gonna turn down a handout, plus I figure it aint' like there's anyone needs it I'm takin' it from," Arai said. A former Chinatown resident, he moved to Staten because he heard it was easier to find work.
Those who are interested in donating or working in partnership with Chicago Air should call Petter Kobrin at (555) 555-2581.


Several photos accompany the piece, including those of volunteers spooning out soup to various recipients, Toru Arai eating his soup, and an aerial view of the island.

Relevant log is here.

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