"To whom much is given, much is expected," says Jean Valerio, an IBO from New York who every week serves the homeless of the Bronx with food, drink, and a smile through New York City Relief (NYCR).
New York City's neediest meet The Relief Bus every Tuesday morning at 10, pouring in from within five city blocks for a free meal, a blanket, and help connecting with resources when they need them the most. For many of these folks, it's their only meal of the day. "It's actually the best soup in the City," says Jean Valerio, a nine-year veteran as a Relief Bus volunteer.
This part of the Bronx is where Jean grew up, before it became a last resort for the homeless. A successful Diamond in Amway Global, she now lives in New Rochelle and drives in to meet The Relief Bus each week. "People need what we've got," says this 77-year-old business woman who counts her blessings by giving to others. "I'm going to go home and be comfortable, but they're not." This is her way of giving back, and she brings friends to help - four other IBOs.
They stand at a 4-foot by 4-foot window in a converted bus handing out soup, a roll, and a drink to a steady stream of visitors. The line lasts until they close up at 2:00 p.m. Most don't make eye contact, although after a while regulars get to know you and give a smile in return. Jean becomes teary while remembering one boy who had missed her while she was undergoing surgery. When she returned, he said, "I knew you'd be okay, because I prayed for you." She has lots of heart-rending stories to share.
Jean found New York City Relief through her son, Ray Melillo, another Diamond. He's been a supporter of The Relief Bus for most of their 20 years, along with his upline Angelo Nardone. They met the founder at a Rangers game and became friends over a conversation about fast cars.
As the story is told on their website, New York City Relief has been in operation since February 1989, an urban ministry started by Richard and Dixie Galloway in answer to God's call after being moved by scripture: Isaiah 58:6-12. They picked up stakes and moved to New York from Texas and with a team of volunteers converted a 1971 GMC bus into a mobile resource center to serve the homeless. They call it "The Relief Bus." Today, there are two and they make 10 stops a week in the inner city to deliver food, clothing, a Bible and give referrals to vital resources such as shelter, jobs and drug/alcohol rehabilitation programs. Many they meet have given up hope. "Bunches of them are kids," Jean notes.
The ministry staff raises 80 percent of their own funds, and thousands of people have provided support for the work of The Relief Bus; that's where Ray, Angelo, and other IBO leaders help - a lot.
Although Ray has served food on The Relief Bus and inspired others to lend a helping hand, he says, "My job is to send the money." It's time, income, and connections that IBOs like Ray can tap into to help others in need. He's brought in contributions from companies and accepted monthly tithes from IBOs. For years, Ray and his wife Joann have conducted fundraising efforts including a raffle at a summer rally involving 2,000 to 3,000 IBOs. There are thousands of volunteers each year, 'Someone has to send them out," says Ray.
Read more about how IBOs contribute to the well being of their communities in our Community Support section.