What started off as a way to get out of summer camp has turned into a labor of love for a Cambridge 10-year-old who passes out over 50 homemade lunches a week to homeless individuals living on the streets near his Central Square home.
Little notes of encouragement -- “Have a nice day” or “Try to smile” -- accompany the brown paper bags hand-packed with any variation of peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, apples, oranges and potato chips.
Liam Hannon, an incoming fifth-grader at the Morse School, said he got the idea from Brain Chase, an educational website he participated in this summer in lieu of camp.
“It’s a treasure hunt, but you have to do different academic challenges and I picked ‘service,’ and for the first week it was helping the homeless,” said Liam.
Liam’s father, Scott Hannon, said when he heard the website’s challenge, he was thinking of how they could help the homeless large scale.
“I was coming up with all these ideas, thinking huge picture, and he just goes, ‘Dad, why don’t we make lunch for the people outside our apartment building. They’re homeless and hungry,’” said Scott Hannon.
Liam’s Lunches of Love took off from there and has grown bigger since the start of summer. The family packs 50 to 60 lunches once a week and delivers them to the homeless, walking up Massachusetts Avenue from their home in Central Square all the way to Harvard Square and back.
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Once they were out in the community, they realized how much the small gesture was appreciated.
“It feels great,” said Liam. “Because of what happened to them, they’ve gotten depressed and they just need a little kindness in their life. We have a few people we see pretty much every time we do it. Usually when we first come see them, they look really sad and when we go over and talk to them they light up.”
Originally the family funded the meals on their own, but now friends and acquaintances donate through a GoFundMe page to help offset the cost of groceries.
Going beyond meals
After talking to those in need and visiting local shelters where the family drops off lunches on particularly hot days, it became apparent that school supplies were also needed. So the family’s public service has grown, and they’re holding a School Supply Drive in the hopes of helping the 400-plus homeless children who benefit from the Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center Inc., located right next to the family’s home.
Currently there are donation boxes in all the libraries as well as inside Arts and Craftsman Supply in Central Square. Donations of any item that a student may need at school or in the home is welcome, including backpacks, notebooks, pens, pencils, markers, crayons, staplers, paper clips and gift cards to places like Target so students can buy outfits for school.
Librarians will accept the gift cards for safe keeping, Scott Hannon said.
The family is also collecting school supplies at an event tonight, Aug. 23, at Thunder Road, 379 Somerville Ave. in Somerville, where Bearly Dead holds an occasional Wednesday-night residency.
For more information on tonight’s event, click here, or donate directly to Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center Inc., located on the third floor of 614 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge.
For information on Liam’s Lunches of Love, visit facebook.com/groups/lunchesoflove.
To donate to Lunches of Love, visit gofundme.com/lunchesoflove.