Since 1971, CHiPS (Park Slope Christian Help, Inc.) has been a community of Brooklyn neighbors, volunteers, and friends who share a common spiritual vision to help those who are less fortunate. We prepare hot, nutritious meals and serve them to the needy in a caring and respectful environment. In addition to meals, we offer seasonal clothing, emergency pantry items, and shelter for young mothers and their children. All our services are offered free of charge through the generosity of our community.
CHiPS was founded in 1971 by members of the St. Francis Xavier Church who were inspired by the spirit of the Vatican II Council and the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan. It was the first Catholic, non-profit agency for the poor, hungry, and homeless people in Park Slope. In the beginning, CHiPS offered coffee, sandwiches, free medical consultations, and legal assistance every evening out of a small storefront. In 1976, we began all-day operations, serving healthy, nutritious meals to all who came to the door.
CHiPS moved several times before landing in our current home at 200 Fourth Avenue. Everything in the facility was donated. The Park Slope Food Coop became an early and important supporter with its regular donation of food. CHiPS also began applying for and receiving support and grants from groups including the Food Bank, United Way of NYC, and FEMA, PNAP, EFAP from the Federal, State and City governments.
Our soup kitchen was staffed entirely by volunteers through the 1980s. Sister Mary arrived in 1983, fresh from serving 14 years in the missions of Senegal, Africa, and Brazil, South America. She joined Sister Pauline, who had managed operations for several years. By then, the soup kitchen was feeding 100-150 people every day. CHiPS joined the Partnership for the Homeless and also began putting up 12-14 homeless people each night, laying out cots in the dining room for them to sleep on.
CHiPS eventually purchased and renovated our current building in the 1990’s with generous support from local churches, synagogues, businesses, schools, friends, and religious brothers and sisters. In the late 1990’s, the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor helped create the Frances Residency Program. Named after their founder Mother Frances Schervier, it is a shelter residency program for nine young, homeless mothers and their infants and toddlers. This marked a shift from short-term housing of homeless men to our current focus on developing independence for young mothers.
Today, CHiPS still relies heavily on volunteers of different ages, faiths, skills, walks of life, from the neighborhood and beyond. We have professional coordinators for the soup kitchen and residence. Our soup kitchen serves over 200-250 men and women daily. Including our breakfast, lunch and pantry bag programs, we provide more than 103,000 meals a year.
Thanks to private donations and insurance, we endured major storms and recent crises: a fire next door caused extensive damage to the facility and its infrastructure in September 2011, and Hurricane Sandy necessitated significant, additional repairs. But the economic crisis which began in 2008 has had the greatest impact on our work and continues to be a challenge.
Denise Scaravella joined CHiPS in 2011 and became Executive Director when Sister Mary retired in April, 2013. Denise brings significant experience in working with and managing programs for low income and homeless individuals and families. She served as Executive Vice President at Homes for the Homeless for twenty years and, in her early career, was a Facilities Coordinator with NYC Human Resources. She is also a nutritionist with experience in the food service industry. Her goal has been to build on Sister Mary’s work and bring in more volunteers and donors. She hopes to secure funding to offer parenting programs for the young mothers upstairs, increase involvement from schools and businesses, strengthen the donor base, and create a sustainable financial future for CHiPS.