Patrick Livingston—founder of Arms of Hope Community, Inc.—a nonprofit based in Lake Worth, is a restaurant developer with more than twenty years of experience, so when it comes to helping people, he immediately thinks of food. But it’s how he plans to use food to spark change that’s really interesting. At his restaurant, Above the Sea, Patrick encourages a spirit of service that starts with making sure people have a hearty meal. Local volunteers like Cindy Sarno toil away in the kitchen making mash potatoes and collard greens. She lives in the area and is a devoted worker in the kitchen. When asked why she does it, she smiles and says: “You have to do something. You have to give something back or what’s the point?” The restaurant serves everyone: veterans, single moms, retirees, low income individuals and families, and the homeless – and they all eat together. Visitors to the kitchen are given a couple of hot plates of food as well as groceries to take home to help get them through the week. Arms of Hope even delivers meals to homebound seniors and the infirm.
Patrick believes his work has helped develop trust in the community and now people come to him for help with other issues. “Feeding people is one thing,” says Livingston. “But we’d like to get to the point where we can help train and develop their skills, and deal with their challenges whatever those struggles may be.”
With this in mind, Patrick’s Arms of Hope acquired a building in which he plans to expand his services. He’s already started renovations. The site, situated right beside the restaurant, will serve as a community center, a meeting place and a learning hub for community kids. A variety of activities will be on offer from computer labs for skills training, to a studio for communications and broadcast classes, to a fitness room. In a struggling neighborhood, Livingston believes having a safe, fun and interesting place for young people to spend their time makes the difference between bright futures hanging about on the street. He wants to direct young people’s interests to positive goals.
It’s a goal he’s given his life, too. Once a restaurant developer, Patrick gave up that life and now works fulltime on his nonprofit, with big dreams of making things better in his neighborhood. He partners with countless other nonprofits like Restoration Bridge and Feeding South Florida to ensure a reliable source of nutritious food for his clients. But it’s the community center that still remains a dream. It needs funding to be finished and start operating. Patrick believes someone out there will want to help him in his work.
Arms of Hope has received a small grant from West Palm Beach-based health funder Quantum Foundation but Senior Program Officer, Shannon Hawkins says: “As a funder, we can only provide financial support. It’s people like Patrick who make the difference with that money. They can stretch a dollar and do more good with it than you can imagine. He needs more community support in the form of volunteers and donations as well as help to renovate his building and we’re hoping some angels might decide to help.”
Patrick hopes so, too. In the meantime, the work never stops and people are always hungry, not only for his food but for the hope he provides in a struggling community.