In My Father’s Kitchen’s Impact on the Syracuse Community In My Father's Kitchen

In My Father’s Kitchen helped get 106 people off the streets of Syracuse.

COOPER BOARDMAN: A local non-profit organization engages with the homeless in Syracuse by cooking them home-cooked meals. John Tumino and his wife started In My Father’s Kitchen to help homeless people who refuse to live in shelters and aren’t ready to leave the streets. N-C-C News Reporter Jacob Kronberg explains how the group helps those in need.

JACOB KRONBERG: John Tumino created In My Father’s Kitchen in 2011. His objective is to make the homeless in Syracuse feel loved.

JOHN TUMINO: “I was using my little car to drive around the city, and find people that were homeless, and tell them that they aren’t invisible, give them awesome lunches, and just love on people.”

JACOB KRONBERG: The idea came to Tumino one day during his prayer time. The words, “In My Father’s Kitchen” popped into his mind.

JOHN TUMINO: “Opportunity to use food as a vehicle to engage someone, and to bring hope into someone’s life by sharing some food with them, but then, also finding out what’s going on in their lives and their suffering, and try and help them get out of that.”

JACOB KRONBERG: Tumino wants to be different than a typical food pantry or soup kitchen. Instead of generic foods, he cooks high-end dishes such as filet mignon or linguine alfredo that he used to serve at his restaurant, Asti Cafe.

JOHN TUMINO: “I’m bringing to someone who is broken. So, the food is the vehicle and the tool, not just to fill your belly, but, also bring you dignity and value, because I’m giving you something you feel you don’t deserve.”

JACOB KRONBERG: He wants to become friends with and help these people get their lives back on track. Food is just the beginning.

JOHN TUMINO: “Once we have this relationship going with you, they start to trust us. Trust is established. And once trust is established, then they start telling you the story.”

JACOB KRONBERG: In My Father’s Kitchen helped get 106 people off the streets of Syracuse by finding them homes and apartments to stay in. One example of that is Steve Clemens.

JOHN TUMINO: “We met Steve in 2014 living on the streets of Syracuse. And it was about a year of me going on a trying to engage him, and he was one of those guys who just wouldn’t really open up too much.”

JACOB KRONBERG: One day the two had a talk that would change Clemens’ life forever.

STEVE CLEMENS: “He had told me that my daughter was looking for me. It was all over after that. That was my little girl. Always will be my little girl.”

JACOB KRONBERG: Clemens’ daughter, Ray, got in touch with Tumino through Facebook trying to find her father.

JOHN TUMINO: “His daughter, this girl, gets a hold of me and says I was up here from South Carolina looking for my dad, and I couldn’t find him, and I wanted to know if you know him. She sent me a picture of him and it was this guy Steve that we knew.”

JACOB KRONBERG: The next time Tumino saw Clemens, he gave him the message.

JOHN TUMINO: “And when I had this information I go back to him a week later and said, hey man, do you have a daughter named Ray? When I told him that his eyes kind of like get huge. I was like, she was here. She was looking for you and wanted to know if you were okay. And I let her know that you’re alive, but that you’re not doing well.”

JACOB KRONBERG: Knowing that people still cared about him gave Clemens the will to stop drinking and try to turn his life around. Clemens said before this there had been days where he didn’t care if he woke up the next morning.

STEVE CLEMENS: “That’s how it all, ugh, came to the decision where I was never going to drink again, and I was never going to get that depressed again.

JACOB KRONBERG: Tumino helped get Clemens into rehab and housing and put him in contact with his daughter. Clemens went to rehab in Cortland for five weeks and has been sober for the last three years, while living in an apartment in South Carolina. Not every story is as successful as Clemens’.

JOHN TUMINO: “Twenty-one people have died since I’ve been doing this. Two women were murdered, two guys were hit by a vehicle, two guys died in an abandon house-fire, seven guys OD-ed, and the rest died of complications of medical things.”

JACOB KRONBERG: However, a news report about one of those murders actually gave the organization its first exposure.

JOHN TUMINO: “Because of that article being written, the kind of cover got taken off of us, and all the sudden In My Father’s Kitchen. People are like who are these people Who is this couple out there doing this? That opened doors for opportunity to go get connected to churches who share our mission.”

JACOB KRONBERG: Tumino works with the Nepalese, Burmese and Congolese churches in Syracuse. They gather new clothes and toys for families and people. Exposure from the news report also connected Tumino’s organization with the Housing and Homeless Coalition in Central New York. It’s now the street outreach wing of the coalition. This relationship allows Tumino to help finds homes for the Syracuse homeless.

JOHN TUMINO: “Now what ends up happening is, when I meet someone on the street, I go back to the coalition and now I have my networking connections, and we get people plugged in.”

JACOB KRONBERG: Tumino uses his connection with the Housing and Homeless Coalition to set up placement for the homeless in available homes, shelters, and apartments. The organization works with churches and conducts neighborhood giveaway drives. Tumino says the drives and donations feature new clothes and new toys.

JOHN TUMINO: “It’s better than nothing, I’m like, how about if we give them better than something.”

JACOB KRONBERG: This winter they gave every homeless person they know in Syracuse new underwear, new socks, and a brand new pair of snow boots.

Jacob Kronberg, N-C-C News

By Jacob Kronberg SYRACUSE N.Y. (NCC NEWS) — Syracuse native John Tumino and his wife, Leigh-Ann, started a not-for-profit organization in 2011 to better the lives of the homeless in Syracuse.

Tumino, a minister and former restaurant owner, had the name In My Father’s Kitchen come to him one day during his prayer time. He wanted to combine his two loves. Christianity and cooking.

“My father would be like your heavenly father, and the kitchen is just the symbolism of him meeting me in my everyday work environment with my natural talent,” said Tumino.

Tumino goes above and beyond to help the homeless. When most people try to help people in need they donate ripped-up dirty clothes or half-working toys. Over at In My Father’s Kitchen, everything is new.

“Well they’re just a homeless person, so it’s better than nothing, but I’m like, how about we give them better than something, said Tumino. “Elevate and raise the bar and show them, ‘Hey, you’re worth that,’ and to me, it’s like showering them with love when they feel like they don’t deserve it.”

Rack of blue jeans to give out to the homeless
The organization has a room full of jeans it has collected.
© 2018 Jacob Kronberg

This winter Tumino and his wife went around to every homeless person they know to get their shoe size and pant size. They then distributed underwear, jeans, socks, and snow boots to all of them. All of which still had the tags on them.

The organization collects donations from people every Friday from and stores them on racks based on size. They are ready at all times to be dispersed to those who need them.

In its eight years of existence, In My Father’s Kitchen has helped get 106 homeless people off the streets of Syracuse.




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