“Most people think that this is a homeless program with the focus being on the needy; however, only the second part of that statement is true. We are focused on the needy... We just don’t know on which side of the bag resides the needier person.” — G.L. Ortiz, Jr., Servant, The Elisha Project
George Ortiz and his wife Carrie wanted to make a difference. They recognized there are families in need all over the world, and the Ortiz family wanted to start helping right where they live.
George and Carrie attempted to coordinate efforts through various churches and organizations, but they faced some roadblocks. Eventually, they took matters into their own hands and The Elisha Project was born. They wanted to involve their children and continue the lesson of empathy that prevailed in their family. The simplest idea came to them: serve lunch to those in need. On a Saturday afternoon in August of 2011, they set out into the streets of Providence with lunches they prepared themselves and began handing them out. George says, “The first week, people took the lunches with trepidation, but that quickly gave way to smiles, appreciation, open gratitude and love. We have seen grown men moved to tears when they see that little hand of one of the EP kids extended with a lunch and a blessing.”
Likes = Lunches
The next step for The Elisha Project was to involve others in their community. So, George took to Facebook and started the “Like=Lunches” campaign - which simply meant, for every new “Like” the Elisha Project Facebook Page received, a lunch would be prepared in honor of that person that clicked and it would be given to someone in need on the streets of Providence. The project took off, with friends and family spreading the word. Families began to reach out to EP to find out what else they could do to help. George and Carrie were excited to bring more people onboard. Part of EP’s mission is to teach empathy, so it was important to them that anyone involved bring the entire family. Some families now show up every Saturday to help prepare and give out lunches.
Local Business and The Elisha Project
Soon, local businesses also became interested in becoming part of EP’s mission. And involvement is simple, with the initial first step being a visit to The Elisha Project on Facebook and clicking “Like” on their page, which will sponsor a meal. For companies looking to make more of an impact, EP has a weekend sponsorship program. A commitment of $250 sponsors a weekend and helps buy, make and distribute 100+ meals. At least 25 Rhode Island companies have supported the program, including CVS Caremark Corporate, Exnihlo Design, PeaceLove Studios, and Solutions Inspired.
"I have been a part of many engagement and community programs in my professional career, but this was different. It was real, it was simple, and I was engaged. Give. Love. Live. That's amazing." —Randy Martinez, Director Strategic Diversity Management, CVS Caremark
The Elisha Project always accepts donations of food or equipment from individuals or businesses. Currently, they are hoping to acquire an electric flat iron grill, refrigerator, and a truck. They are continually in need of cookies, water, brown paper bags, and foil.
The future of The Elisha Project is bright. They are in the planning stages of expanding the project to two more cities and they have formulated a national program for children, “Healthy Weekends: Bridging the Gap from Friday to Monday” which launches this summer and is in need of business sponsorship.
When asked what advice he would give to a small business owner who doesn’t have funds to contribute, but who wants to get involved, George said, “You can always do something. You can be an EP champion and tell the world. You can come and participate with your family and make and distribute lunches. There is no barrier of entry here. We want you all! But, we want the entire family!”