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Human Beans Together...the FAQ
We really appreciate everyone’s generosity and willingness to pitch in. Thanks to one and all! Over time, we’ve had many people ask about our experiences and recommended procedures. Here are some highlights:

1.1) Who are the "Human Beans?"

1.2) Who are all the other volunteers?

2) How Do I Join?

2.1) Is it safe? Can/should I bring my kids?

4) Where and when?

5) Who supplies the equipment?

6) What supplies are needed?

7) Should I bring cash to give to the needy?

8) What foods should I bring and how much?

8.1) Can I cook or heat foods at the OCCC? How about keeping foods warm?

8.2) Are there freezers or refrigerators available at the OCCC for week-to-week storage?

9) Which is preferable, plates or cups?

10) How much is a "serving?"

11) Should I bring serving utensils?

12) What about snack items; cookies, granola bars and the like?

13) How about bottled water?

14) And how about about non-food items?

15) Is there any coördination of food and other items to share?

1.1) Who are the "Human Beans?"
Human Beans Together Inc. is a tax exempt 501(c)(3), being a loose disorganization of people who wish to share their resources with others less fortunate. We are a secular group having no message or agenda, instead welcoming anyone who simply wishes to help others.

1.2) Who are the other volunteers? Who are all these people?
The Oak City Cares Center (OCCC) is owned by the City of Raleigh. Its operations are currently coördinated by an employee of the Catholic Charities of Raleigh (CCoR) who is paid by the city for this specific service. As such, the OCCC frequently has CCoR volunteers cleaning up, directing "traffic" and generally helping to keep things running.

The actual service of food and distribution of items is done by other charitable groups and organizations such as ours, the scheduling of which is done by the OCCC's coördinator.

Therefore, you will see some folks with formal-looking ID badges and some folks wearing stick-on, temporary name tags. When the OCCC opened in 2014, the CCoR gave its volunteers bright orange T-shirts, some of which still show up.

We Human Beans have flirted with the idea of name tags a few times, but have come to eschew them, as we generally feel that our wearing name tags creates a "there's-us-and-then-there's-you" environment. We prefer simply to be friends helping friends, as it were. If you'd like to wear a name tag, it's your choice of course (my 10-year-old liked doing so), but in general, you can tell the HBT volunteers by their very lack of identification. Of course, that may lead to people's mistaking us for the friends to whom we're offering help, but that's kinda the whole idea...

2) How do I join HBT?
You don't--we have no membership; we are all just volunteers. Anyone wishing to help out is welcome. Please feel free to come observe or participate. We'd love to meet you!

2.1) Is it safe? Can/should I bring my kids?
Yes, it is safe. There is a uniformed Raleigh police officer present at all times, just in case. We encourage people to bring their children; it's a wonderful experience for them! Naturally, owing to the presence of a large number of people, I would keep an eye on the kids, just as you would in any place crowded with strangers.

4) Where and when?
We set up in the City of Raleigh-owned Oak City Cares Center located at 1430 South Wilmington Street, Raleigh. We generally serve until the food runs out, or when people stop coming by to eat (rarely later than 12:30).

5) Supplies and equipment
The OCCC has a storeroom with shelving for storage of durable goods, equipment, etc. If you choose to leave things there, please be sure to mark them with your name and "Human Beans Together." It's also a good idea to write the date on things so that folks can tell if something has been left unused for years...

Several of our volunteers store our vital or valuable items between uses, so please let us know if you are able and willing to pitch in by storing items f or the week and bringing them the next Sunday.

Upon arrival, we can set up and start to serve, but there is little reason to arrive much before 11:00; in fact we like to set up in a flash mob manner, i.e., with people arriving as close to 11:00 as possible and, in a flurry of activity, getting everything set up and going as quickly as we can.

6) What supplies are needed?
HBT does have a small amount of money from grants and donations, and we usually buy cups, plates, paper towels, cutlery, trash bags, plastic gloves, etc., but we certainly welcome their being contributed by volunteers. It is a good idea to carry a spare bag of cups or a roll of paper towels for those occasions when we run out because no one noticed we were low.

7) Should I give cash to the needy?
No, please don’t offer any money to people at our HBT outings. I strongly recommend that you not have any if you’re asked and I quite intentionally leave cash at home on Sundays for this very reason. You can imagine the riot and fights that could ensue if 100 people standing in line were to think a limited supply of cash was being given out up ahead! That said, if you would like to offer financial help to someone in need, please simply walk away from the multitude and do what you can as discretely as possible.

8) What foods should I bring and how much?
We had a sign-up page at that fell into disuse, so I suggest bringing whatever you are comfortable with. Here are some suggestions and observations that may prove helpful:

With apologies to our vegetarian and vegan friends, meat is usually a sought-after item. Chili, chicken and rice, pasta dishes with meat, etc. are all much appreciated by our hungry friends (though we have heard rumblings of people's being tired of pasta!). Nonetheless, vegetarian dishes are always welcomed and readily consumed, too, so please don't hesitate to bring such things if you wish. Soups and casseroles are good, as are hot dogs (don’t forget to bring--or ask someone else to bring--condiments).

Foods that can be carried away in pockets or backpacks for later eating are appreciated: fresh fruit, fruit cups, granola bars, sardines in tins, PB&J sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, etc. are all in great demand. Do remember that many of our hungry friends have no refrigeration available, so do take into account the possibility of spoilage.

As we usually serve 150-200 meals each Sunday, the question of how much to bring is hard to answer. Suffice it to say, no one person ever aims to bring 200 servings of anything! Those who go overboard usually bring 30 servings or so, but that's really a lot for one person or family, and no one has such expectations. Therefore, just know that any amount you bring will be deeply appreciated!

8.1) Can I cook or heat foods at the OCCC? How about simply keeping foods warm?
Warming oven and ice-maker Good news! While we can't cook there, the OCCC now has a restaurant-sized warming oven and a commercial microwave for re-warming.

8.2) Are there freezers or refrigerators available at the OCCC for week-to-week storage?
Warming oven and ice-makerStill more good news! The OCCC also has a commercial-sized upright refrigerator and a matching freezer, so things can be held there for a while. Please note that anything left therein needs to have a name and date (I would be sure to mention "Human Beans," too).

BTW, when we were serving in the park in sub-freezing temperatures the food always stayed hot long enough to run out. I carry hot pots wrapped in in old towels as insulation during transport, and it's plenty hot to the very bottom.

In the relatively unlikely event that there is food left-over, I strongly recommend AGAINST trying to store anything remotely perishable there for a week. Instead, volunteers' options are to eat it (lots of us really enjoy tasting others' offerings, which are invariably delicious, but we always feel obliged to wait until everyone else has been served before we taste), leave it available for people wandering in later in the afternoon (and many do), taking it home, asking other volunteers if they have a place to freeze/store it, or, of course--and the least desirable option--throwing it away. I hasten to reiterate that seldom is there enough left over food for this to become an issue.

9) No. 9 dealt with Solo cups, but has been deprecated, as trying to serve everything in cups is no longer relevant now that we have have tables and chairs where our friends can sit and enjoy their meals! We do still serve soups, etc. in cups, so we do buy them to have on hand, so by all means, please feel free to make a pot of soup!

10) How much is a "serving?"
As the number of hungry folks we serve increases, we encourage limiting servings to one plate or cup per person on each trip through the line. We do ration popular items in short supply, but there are no rules, so volunteers are merely encouraged to use their best judgment. When the lines are long and the food supply is meager, someone will usually give a "heads-up" to suggest keeping portions small. Similarly, when we've an abundance of food and few takers, the word spreads, and we can pile it on. Again, it's all just common sense.

11) Should I bring serving utensils?
If you bring a prepared dish it’s wise to bring a serving utensil too. It’s also a good idea to mark your personal property, as stuff can and does get mixed up. We are an honest bunch, though, so if you're missing something one week, it will most likely show up the following week. We do keep extras items on hand so don't panic if you forget something.

12) What about snack items; cookies, granola bars and the like?
Small items (candy bars, granola bars, fruit cups, etc.) are best handed out, as opposed to being left for self-service. While I can’t fault anyone for taking food for later consumption, in some cases, folks load up pockets and packs, causing items to run out while many people are still in line.

13) How about bottled water?
Bottled water is always needed, and especially in the heat of summer. We often walk up the line and hand out water to those standing in line when it's hot. We also offer glasses of ice water and sometimes other beverages with meals.

Generally, we try to have enough bottled water so that people can carry some away for later. Owing to our very ad hoc nature, we tend to have too much or too little water each week. Feel free to bring a case of water to place in the cooler.

14) What about non-food items?
While sharing food with the hungry is an obvious and stated goal, there are other things needed: soaps, tooth brushing kits, deodorants, socks, shoe liners ("Dr. Scholl's"), shaving kits, etc. are always in demand. Remember, think small, as things have to be tucked into pockets or backpacks. Feminine hygiene products are much needed, and can be discretely offered. Blankets are needed for cooler weather, as is the warm clothing you wish to offer. Gloves, warm socks, chemical hand warmers, and similar items are really appreciated by those folks forced to sleep outdoors as temperatures drop.

The Cares Center often sets up tables after we've served and distributes such items to those interested. If you have items to donate, just ask any of the volunteers, and they'll help you find someone to take that which you've brought.

15) How does HBT communicate? Is there any coördination of food and other items being shared?
If you wish to participate in our general discussion, please like us on Facebook. Similarly, if you wish to participate in our nuts and bolts discussions where food needs and plans are discussed, please consider joining
our email discussion list at http://groups.google.com/ .

We appreciate tax-deductible cash donations, which can be made by visiting our “$cashtag” or via the PayPal button to the right.  Please note that using our $cashtag results in our receiving 100% of your donation, as, unlike PayPal, Square Cash charges no fees.