We're well into our 15th year of serving food on Skid Row, in downtown Los Angeles and we've served over 730,000 meals! Thank you to all of our supporters!
What Our Supporters Say About Us
The letters, articles and notes below come from people who have volunteered with us, people downtown on Skid Row, people who contribute to us, and people who have heard or read about Ray Castellani on the radio or in the news.
If you are interested in writing something for this page, please email us at:
July 28, 2000
I just read your letter to me Ray and I feel your spirit every time I get
a note like that. Thank you it reminds me of the love I have for life that I so often
forget about during a day. God bless you and all of the people that contribute to this
June 28, 2000
I just re-read the letter you wrote about your good friend Danny. You are a
wonderful writer and the emotion you feel came through loud and clear. I
cried reading that letter and the one that follows (on the website) about
your life up until now. Thank you for sharing such intimate details of your
path through life.
What you told me about freedom of self moved me. It's a difficult place to
get to, but it is clearly the right place. I have been working on my biases
and the judgements I hold every day. Visiting the residents of skid row was
a humbling experience. I did my best to let go of my expectations and
motivations and just be present with the experience.
And I felt so safe there with you. I was certainly scared, but at the same
time I could see the love and respect that the people you help have for you.
Thank you for the beautiful work you do every day and for allowing others to
follow in your footsteps. I'm humbled by the amount of love that goes into
preparing the food -- I was sharing with my friend Danielle that it hadn't
struck me to make sure that the oranges hadn't gone bad. I figured free
food was free food. That judging part of me had dismissed the homeless as
different -- somehow that they didn't have the same tastebuds as me as well
as the right to healthy delicious food. Of course they do. I would. I
have a lot to learn, but seeing things through your eyes and through the
volunteers at Frontline is helping to teach me.
From Jerry, a new Frontline supporter:
I went on a search because I wasn't sure where skid row was. When I came upon your site, I was reminded of the times I have been destitute & have depended upon the kindness & generosity of others. Although I have little now, I am in an economic area which allows me to live comfortably. Thank you for providing me a way I can express my gratitude for all that I have been given.
A letter from Kathy Dolin:
I was compelled to write you this letter after seeing your show about people
who reached out to help others because they saw things they could do to help,
and they made the effort to do them.
I want to tell you about my friend Ray Castellani. He is the most spiritual
(not religious) man I know. He follows the directions of "the Master."
Because of his obedience to this power and his focus on the direction he was
given, he began by serving 111 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches off the
back of his truck in 1986, and now runs an all-volunteer organization called
Frontline Foundation (www.frontline-foundation.org), which has served almost
3/4 of a million meals to the people of Skid Row, Los Angeles. Ray takes no
credit for the accomplishments of Frontline. He calls it a miracle,
crediting the Master and Frontline supporters with the work. He says that
he, himself, is only an instrument.
Ray says the food, also, is only a vehicle, because what he really serves
the people of Skid Row is unconditional love and compassion. He does this
without judging them and without trying to convert them to some hidden agenda
of his own. He requires nothing back from anyone. In one of the most
dangerous areas of the city, where people can sense condescension and
insincerity from miles away, Ray walks alone, talking to the people, hugging
them, giving them his love, his full attention and his time--this to a people
who have been neglected and forgotten, swept under the carpet. And they
love him back.
For this work, Ray has been honored by President Bush, and, in 1995,
received the President's Service Award from Bill Clinton. This is considered
the nation's highest service award.
I am writing to you because I know you have based many of your shows on the
theme of spirituality, and I feel that your viewers would really benefit
from hearing Ray speak. Ray never promotes himself or his cause. He shares
himself and his work at Frontline. He gives of himself. Most important, Ray
carries this vision of serving humanity into all aspects of his life--not
just on Skid Row. His presence in my life over the last 15 years has been an
incredible gift, not only because of his love and support at difficult times
in my life, but because he is an example of what a human being should be.
The principles he practices are those common to all great people universally
admired by all societies: Ghandi, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa. I have read the writings of these people,
and I am always astounded that, at one time or another, Ray has said these
same things to me in a more simple and direct way. I always joke with him
that the Dalai Lama has been stealing his material.
Oprah, I have enclosed an article from the LA Times, the one with Ray and
President Clinton at the White House, and also the last Frontline newsletter,
which contains a timeline of Frontline's history and an article Ray has
written about his life. I would like to share this wonderful man with you,
and think that, after you read what he has written, and see what has been
accomplished through him, you might want to share him with others, too.
P.S. Again, Frontline Foundation's website is at www.
frontline-foundation.org. It contains details about Frontline, copies of
newspaper articles, some of Ray's writings, and pictures, too. I hope you'll
check it out.
WHAT FRONTLINE GAVE MEby Lisa Matthews
It was nine years ago that my friend Hae-sun and I would be up late on Fridays and say "Do you want to just stay up and help that guy who feeds the hungry people?" We did this for a long time and never actually showed up.
We had heard from various people that a group of volunteers of all ages would meet in a church at sunrise on Saturdays and make sandwiches. They would then take it down and serve it on the streets of Skid Row, in downtown Los Angeles. I had at that time very strong feelings about doing the same thing, but didnt know how to go about it. What was stopping me now that I had found that outlet was the idea of being up so early on a Saturday morning.
Almost nine months later I had started a new job where I didnt have to work on Wednesdays. That same week a woman I knew told me how on Wednesdays she would go to feed the people on Skid Row. I asked her about it and found out that it was the same man and the same place. I knew that I had no excuse and asked her to give me the information and to tell the man I would be there the following Wednesday. I didnt know him, but for some reason I felt that this was a commitment. continued on next pageI dont even know if she told him I was coming, but I felt he was expecting me.
I cant explain the feeling I got when I first walked down the kitchen stairs and was welcomed by Ray Castellani and his Wednesday night volunteers, but its a feeling that I will always cherish. Volunteers Carrie Snodgress and Harry Johansing took me under their wing and showed the ways of "Frontline" - to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with love. Everyone had a specific job and it was very organized. Ray would be observing everything offering tips and making everyone feel comfortable. About two hours later all the sandwiches were packed and loaded into Rays truck. We all found spots in the truck ourselves and headed downtown.I was new so I got to sit up front with Ray and he explained what Frontline was to him.
I have always kept what he said as the mission for Frontline. He explained that he felt directed and guided to serve sandwiches to the hungry of Skid Row. It had come to him while he was running away from his troubles.
He had been driving out of town and after a unsuccessful trip he felt compelled to head back. He said it was when he hit Thousand Oaks he knew he was being directed to come back and make some food for Skid Row. He never knew though that it would go beyond his first trip. He said that he felt in the year and a half that Frontline had been serving meals that the food was merely a vehicle to bring love, compassion and friendship to those less fortunate.
While I handed out the sandwiches that night I knew that we were bringing more then something thatwould hold their stomach over until the next day.
I felt the love that was generating between us the volunteers and those from Skid Row. It was an experience that I will cherish the rest of my life. I never had and havent since had an experience where I felt that life was really special no matter where you were at in your life.
I didnt realize that first night that I was about to start a new path in my life, and make friends with people that would become very important in my life. My marriage ended two months later and I had a place to go almost every night to help prepare food, help with fundraisers, serve meals and share conversation with those we serve. Hae-sun soon followed among others that we knew. The first night I met from Skid Row LaLo and Leo who became friends I got to look forward to seeing each week. My eight year old dog was named as a puppy because of that experience "Ray C."
Frontline Foundation was intertwined with every aspect of my life for almost four years. Four years ago I moved to Ventura County and tried to come every Saturday, but after starting work out there I had to cut it to one Saturday a month. I still love when I take someone new from my work to experience Frontline for the first time and they feel the energy in the kitchen and Skid Row. It allows me to relive that first night.
I cant believe Frontline is celebrating its 10th year. When I first went I was kind of disappointed that I hadnt been there from the beginning. As time has gone by I feel now that I have. Through the years many changes occurred, but no matter what changes have occurred the mission stayed the same and no oneon Skid Row probably noticed any difference. They continued to receive filling meals numerous days a week that are served by what they have come to known as family. And they have been there to welcome us when we arrive.
I really think its those from Skid Rows love, compassion and shared conversations with us is why Ray and the volunteers have kept Frontline alive for ten wonderful years.
Lisa Matthews is an ardent Frontline supporter, attending and coordinating fundraisers, volunteering, contributing funds, etc. She is a true asset and a dear friend.
by Carrie Snodgress
This evening Noreen Castellani told me that Frontline was issuing it's tenth anniversary edition of the "Frontline Today" newsletter. She asked me if I would like to write a few words about Frontline, since I am one of the "originals" who began helping Ray's quest to answer his "calling" to feed the people who reside in L.A.'S Skid Row. I do not remember Ray's details of instructing us in this calling - only his sincerity of heart to "do something' he believed in. We believed in him. Therefore, we would have walked a journey to any calling he had. As Ray had proved so important in my life to help me understand a new way of living I eagerly showed up to pack sweets and sandwiches which we, a hand full of people, took to Ray's new territory, where he was a Babe-In-The-Woods, at that time. Our trips went downtown to a community of people in such need to satisfy hunger and love. A community so grateful and loving in return. This became a place in the world where Ray was comfortable immediately, and made so many people feel the love and trust they so desired ~
I am but a shadow, these ten years later, in Noreen's and Ray's tireless,-aggravating at times, and deeply devoted years, to insure a few people that they can count on a meal when the rains pour, and the sun burns, and when the holidays bring back memories of childhood and families left behind because of economics, pressures, bureaucracies, and sickness. I, along with each of 500,000 meals served, am witness to an extra-ordinary effort that has brought so many people together in giving, and receiving.
Thank you Ray and Noreen for being such good caretakers and givers of your extra-ordinary love and understanding. Thank you, the steadfast volunteers . . . you know who you are . . . for your tireless effort .Carrie has been a longtime friend of Ray Castellani and an active volunteer and supporter since Frontlines inception in 1987
That First Day
by Fred Perry
One hundred and eleven peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a truck full of warm clothes packed in boxes; these were the things that Ray, Danny and I took down to the corner of 5th and San Pedro on a December morning in 1987, Frontlines first trip into the heart of LAs Skid Row. Aside from my own trepidation about entering the highly volitile area, I was also a bit skeptical about there being any need for yet another organization;numerous missions, shelters and church groups already exited in the area to provide meals, clothing and shelters. How could our meager offerings stir any interest? So I was totally unprepared for what followed when, upon arriving, Ray spotted some men hunkered down in a storefront alcove,approached them held up a sandwich, and said, "Hungry? Want some food?" Within moments, as if from out of nowhere, a huge crowd had gathered at the tailgate of the truck, their hands reaching out for whatever we had. In five minutes it was all gone; food, clothes, even the sweaters we were wearing. It was astonishing, this hunger and need. I realized that we hadnt even made a dent that day. There were thousands who lived on the streets in L.A. I knew that Fronlitne would be back. "Hungry? Want some food?" Those simple words are what Frontline mean to me. And I am grateful to have been a small part of its beginnings.
Fred Perry was an active volunteer and supporter of Frontline who was behind many of Frontlines famous food recipes still used today.