The following article is in the just-released spring edition of our News from HOME print newsletter. If you would like to receive the newsletter in the mail, click here. You can read more of the newsletter online here.
It’s a few minutes before six o’clock on a Friday evening. Folks are making their way into the community room at 1515 Fairmount Avenue. Some are residents of Project HOME – including some from upstairs at 1515, others who have made their way from different sites. Also coming in are a few staff members, as well as various friends and even some first-time visitors. They greet each other and chat; some make their way to the snacks table for popcorn, pretzels, or soda.
It’s Movie Night at 1515. For the next couple of hours, the community room will be transformed into a temporary cinema. Tonight’s feature is 42, the stirring biopic of Jackie Robinson and his struggle against great odds to break baseball’s color line. It will be broadcast via a video Game Boy carefully set up and programmed by Project HOME resident Mike Kozisky. It’s almost time to start, and guests are urged to find a seat. Dr. Deborah Luepnitz, a long-time friend, supporter, and volunteer of Project HOME (who was profiled in the Fall 2015 edition of this newsletter), welcomes people and will “emcee” the night. She also introduces a half dozen psychotherapists in the audience who work in the community -- including some who haven't missed a Movie Night yet.
A couple of hours later (including time for a pizza break), the lights are back on, and Dr. L (as she is known by Project HOME folks) leads the crowd in a discussion on what they just saw. They discuss what it means to be strong enough not to fight back. One resident remarks on how Robinson’s story evokes the nonviolence of Dr. King. Another resident emotionally describes why he had to step out of the room during the scenes of the most explicit racist attacks on Robinson: “It reminds me of being 13 years old and people calling me a faggot while I walked down the street.” But he also notes how, like in Robinson’s story, we’ve come a long way: He’s encouraged when he sees gay couples holding hands in public.
Movie Night is Mike Kozisky’s special project, and since its inception a year ago, it has taken off. An avid movie buff, Mike has been with Project HOME since 1997, currently living in our Connelly House residence in Center City.
For several years, Mike’s life at Project HOME was fairly static, and while being in a safe living situation, he was not making much personal progress. Not long ago, he opted for the new Personal Recovery Services program. (The PRS program was profiled in our last newsletter.) He’s grateful for the support that has allowed him to move forward in various fronts in his life, including letting out the creative juices that led to Movie Night.
The idea for Movie Night was hatched by Mike, along with fellow Connelly House resident Dionne Stallworth and Dr. L, both of whom shared his love of movies. Together they developed a plan for an initial gathering of residents and other to watch and discuss a movie. They chose “Row Your Boat,” a little-known film starring Project HOME supporter Jon Bon Jovi. It’s topic – homelessness. Mike, Dionne, and Dr. L thought it would be provocative to see how residents responded.
“It turned out great,” Mike remembers. As they had hoped, residents made connections to their stories and struggles. And so began a monthly gathering, which grew bigger with each screening. Over the past year, Movie Night attendees have watched and discussed such films as Patch Adams, Where the Heart Is, The Help, and others. Mike and his crew select films that they believe are inspirational and empowering, including some that had personal meaning for him. “Some of these films make me teary,” he says. As the event has grown, he also solicits ideas from other residents. Their choices are films that portray “something people can relate to, something that hits home.”
One goal of Movie Night, according to Mike, is to build community, which is one of Project HOME’s core values. “I want people to come together and get more involved, have more social life, and also have ways to relate to each other.” And he believes that people come for the discussion as much as for the films.
“It’s great to see Mike flourishing. I have loved to see how he has turned a personal passion of his into something that offers growth to other residents,” says Rachel Lewis, a PRS staff person who has worked closely with Mike’.
Mike, Dionne, Dr. L, and Rachel are preparing for the next edition of Movie Night – a showing of “Homeless to Harvard.” While enjoying popcorn and pizza, folks will watch the story of a overcoming odds and achieving unimaginable success.
No doubt, a beautiful bit of community will be sparked, and perhaps some seeds of empathy, compassion, and enriched humanity will be watered.
JOIN US FOR THE NEXT MOVIE NIGHT!
Mike, Dionne, and Dr. L will be showing "Homeless to Harvard," based on a true story of overcoming odds to achieve success that noone thought was possible.
Friday, June 10
1515 Fairmount Avenue