LAKE WORTH, Fla. - It's easy to be in the giving spirit during the holidays, but one Palm Beach County man is giving everything he has all year long in an effort to turn around a hurting Lake Worth neighborhood.
Patrick Livingston has been feeding the poor in Southern Lake Worth for the past three years.
No stranger to the food business, Livingston was a restaurant developer for years. During that time, he hired and trained several workers in Delray Beach who struggled with drug addictions and lived in sober homes. Helping them in their fight for sobriety, Livingston eventually realized he would rather be in the business of helping people full-time.
He opened Above the Sea Soup Kitchen, hoping he could make a difference in an area plagued with poverty and homelessness through food and compassion.
Livingston says he sees a wide variety of people coming through his doors. Single mothers, the working poor and retirees on a fixed income line up next to people with drug addictions and mental health issues.
"It's not just those who we consider to be homeless who are coming in here, Livingston says. "We have a lot of folks that are struggling."
And he says the best way to get to them is through their stomachs.
"It changes folks' minds and thought process before anybody else gets to them," Livingston says.
"Feeding them is one thing. We would like to take this a little further, where we can train, develop and get them through whatever their struggles may be, educate them on how to overcome that."
But his goals come at a high price. He's given up nearly everything he once had to keep the non-profit afloat.
"We're fighting to keep our home, fighting to pay our bills every month," he says.
Just like the people he's serving, Patrick says he now has to take home some of the food his soup kitchen offers to help feed his own family.
Still, he works to make sure everyone who comes in the door leaves with more than enough food. The soup kitchen sends them out with at least a couple of hot plates each and groceries to help get them through the week.
It's creating the same giving spirit Patrick has in others. Michael Mencher, who's recently out of work and homeless visits the soup kitchen a couple times a day every day it's open. He says it's inspired him to give back too.
"If I have too much food, which sometimes is the case, which is great, I'll give a plate or two to somebody else who's down and out on their luck," Mencher says, "You know, pay it forward."
Dish by dish, Livingston says he gets all the reward in the world as he watches hope spread in a neighborhood full of people desperately in need of it.
"They feel how folks care about them," he says. "There's somebody who cares about them in this neighborhood. They're just not left alone. You see some changes there. So they're coming up and they're asking for help, because now they believe in us. Now they trust us because we're here helping them for no reason. It makes it a little bit easier now for us to impact them in the right way."