P.B.J. Outreach, Inc. in Detroit began with an idea when Deacon Tim Sullivan from Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, Michigan and his wife, Gail, visited Boston in July 2002. Gail was there attending a seminar put on by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, where she is employed as an Investigator. While they were walking in the historic district of Boston, they saw a woman leaning against the Old State House building and holding a sign that read, “Help Me I’m Homeless.”
While Deacon Tim had always been attentive to the poor, he couldn’t help but think as he looked at this woman that she’s part of the “faceless homeless.” After giving the lady a few dollars, he walked past her. He stopped a few feet away and thought of the money he was spending during his stay in Boston. Deacon Tim and Gail returned to give the homeless lady a few more dollars. As they turned to leave, Gail asked the lady for her name so they could pray for her by name. The homeless woman said, “Pam.” As they started to leave, Pam called after them, “What are your names so I can pray for you?” At that moment, the homeless had a name and face for Deacon Tim.
The next day while walking around lunch time, in a park called Boston Commons, Deacon Tim saw a young woman standing behind a card table who was making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless. The next day he took Gail back to Boston Commons to see the woman making sandwiches. On the way back to Detroit Deacon Tim told his wife “I’m going to do that.”
Deacon Tim’s experiences in Boston planted the seeds for him to start PBJ Outreach in Detroit. All that was needed was a good location. He remembered one summer, when he was a Special Agent with the Bureau of ATF, being detoured across Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. because of road construction. Each day when he went to work he saw a large number of homeless and marginalized poor in the vicinity of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Third. Each evening he noticed the same thing. He kept thinking: “Someone should do something.” However, each day he promptly got busy and sidetracked. Later on, he went past this location again and found that it was still a congregating point for the homeless. After he made some initial contacts and received donations of peanut butter and jelly from Our Lady of Good Counsel parishioners, P.B.J. Outreach, Inc. was launched on October 5, 2002. On that day, a few volunteers, working behind one card table, prepared peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gave them to between 30 and 40 people who had gathered at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Third in the Cass Corridor.
This was the start of a program that today feeds 250-350 people every Saturday morning in inner city Detroit. It all began when a woman in Boston named Pam held up a sign that said: “Help Me I’m Homeless.”