Victoria Thornton-Lucas is one of the winners of a special judging of the Daily Point of Light Award being honored this May during Older Americans Month. Recognizing the contributions of older Americans, these awards celebrate 50+ volunteers who are making a difference by giving of their time, talent and experience to meet the critical needs of their communities.
Learn more about 50+ Volunteering.
Victoria was born in Sumpter, South Carolina on May 19, 1940. She grew up in a family of nine. While life was not always easy, her mother was a loving and charitable woman who taught her children, by example, the importance of sharing and serving others. Her mother helped their disadvantaged neighbors, as well as strangers, by providing them with food, clothing, and shelter in her home.
In 1969, Mrs. Thornton-Lucas moved into the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. At that time, the community in Bushwick was flourishing. By the early 1990’s, Mrs. Thornton-Lucas began to see a disturbing change happening in her beloved neighborhood. Drugs, AIDS, homelessness, joblessness and hunger were ravaging Bushwick, bringing the community to the point of utter destruction.
A turning point for Mrs. Thornton-Lucas came when she saw an elderly neighbor eating out of a garbage can and eating cat food to sustain herself. Mrs. Thornton-Lucas saw other elderly friends abandoned by their family members, struggling to support themselves in their golden years. With homelessness growing, and jobs scarce, Mrs. Thornton-Lucas witnessed many families going without food and shelter.
“I’ve seen the community change completely,” said Mrs. Thornton-Lucas. This heartbreaking change from strong, middle-class families, to poverty stricken individuals, provided the motivation for her to continue her charitable deeds. She decided to become part of the solution, instead of being a victim of her environment. Wanting to help suffering members of her community, she started the Bushwick Community Council Service (BCCS) Soup Kitchen and Pantry in 1996. At first, Mrs. Thornton-Lucas used her own funds all of the food that was distributed to those in need. Later, she began to receive limited funding from outside agencies.
Mrs. Thornton-Lucas presently serves as BCCS’s Director. Her position is unpaid, and entirely voluntary. Under her leadership, BCCS has grown steadily over the years. They began serving 125 clients per month, providing 25-50 meals per week. They now serve over 2,700 clients per month, providing 500 hot meals a week and 250-300 food pantry bags. Her program serves meals to more than 30,000 people each year. Mrs. Thornton-Lucas began with two volunteer. The soup kitchen now utilizes 14 volunteers who serve on a regular basis. They provide sit-down meals in the soup kitchen, take-out meal service, meal delivery service, to homebound senior residents in the community, and a full functioning food pantry. In addition, free clothing, job referrals and various job-training services area also provided to those in need, through the Bushwick United Methodist Church, which has housed the BCCS since its inception. Like her mother before her, Victoria Thornton-Lucas continues to share and serve, and is an example for others to follow in her footsteps. Her future plans involve developing programs that would allow youth and older adults an opportunity to serve and give back to their community.