For 14 consecutive years, United Palace House of Inspiration (UPHI), a nondenominational, all-inclusive spiritual community, has brought a flicker of hope to thousands of the elderly, sick, poor and hungry. Hidden away in run-down houses, the projects and very poor neighborhoods are people living in conditions that many of us would not know even exist in New York City. What many of us don’t realize is that there are people that live, and in some instances work among us, that do not have the substance to provide a decent meal for their families.
In conversation with Rev. Ike more than fourteen years ago, an acquaintance began to disclose to Rev. Ike a dream that he had hidden away in his heart about doing something that would make a difference in the lives of people who had very little, and during times when the vast majority of us are sitting around tables filled with bountiful supply. The very thought of these times of celebration bring great stress and depression, because they realize that their empty tables would remind them of their unfortunate circumstances.
Having heard his dream story, which included the hardship he faced as a kid growing up with a single parent in New York City, a collaborate effort was formed between Mr. Van Jay McDuffy to change that for as many needed families as he could identify. Mr. McDuffy (better known as Van Jay) started on his journey of searching out people who are not always very visible, including struggling mothers, the elderly, shut-in and home-bound to make gifts of turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Mr. Van Jay McDuffy is formerly Program Director of the radio station WWRL. He also formerly worked for Inner City Broadcasting Company, WBLS, and Riverside Radio (WRVR-FM).
Each year, Van Jay would make his list and a few days prior to the holidays, would load up the turkeys into a vehicle and personally deliver these turkeys. At first the focus was on people in Manhattan, and as the years went by the area was broadened to include people in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. In many instances, there have been families who would receive their turkeys in tears and would comment that without this gift, there would be no food on their table. As was customary of Rev. Ike, he did not want his name attached to his gifts. So, when people inquired, they were told that the gift was from an anonymous philanthropist. Van Jay often comments on "Rev. Ike's generosity and his willingness to carry on a project of this magnitude."
This Thanksgiving and Christmas project continues today through Rev. Ike’s legacy, now called UPHI, and Xavier Eikerenkoetter, Rev. Ike’s son and the Spiritual Director of UPHI.
Van Jay is shown here with some UPHI staff and others loading a vehicle for delivery of Christmas turkeys.