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Shelter residents, corporate employees dine side-by-side at "Meet Your Neighbors" dinner

CBS New York 11/23/2022 Jessica Moore

NEW YORK -- The weather is getting colder, the holidays are here, and we're all wrapped up trying to keep up with it all.

But in this season of giving, it can also be a time to recognize people around us, maybe even have dinner with a stranger.

CBS2's Jessica Moore takes us to one dinner where those strangers come from places as different as corporate offices and homeless shelters.

The tables are set and a festive atmosphere awaits. Most attending are strangers, but here, coming together to "meet their neighbors."

This "Meet Your Neighbors" dinner is the brainchild of Adina Lichtman.  

"When you bring people living in homes and people living in shelters to have dinner side-by-side ... Both really come away feeling humbled and inspired," she said.

Lichtman is the founder and CEO of Knock Knock Give a Sock, a charity that has collected and distributed more than 3 million pairs of socks to people experiencing homelessness and living in shelters.

"We engage corporate companies that collect socks in their offices to actually meet the recipients of those sock donations. Most of them don't actually even know people who've experienced homelessness," Lichtman said.

Lichtman sets the tables for about 30 shelter residents and 30 corporate employees to come together for dinner.

Jordan Gosin and Emma Sukenik brought their colleagues from Newmark Real Estate in for this one.

"I expected to be uncomfortable. But it was like amazing, like one of those experiences where you're ... energized and excited," Sukenik said.

"You got to come in open-minded, right? You got to come in and say, I'm going to just sit here and listen," Gosin said.

Lichtman puts what she calls "ice breaker" questions at each place setting to get the conversations started, like, "What keeps you up at night?" and "What do you miss about being a kid?"

"It is my very first and I'm having a wonderful time," shelter resident Brenda Vaughn said.

"Meeting these folks ... helps you understand what it is that they're going through. Oftentimes we hear about folks going through a really difficult time, but you never really get to interact with them," said Nick Martinez, with the Graced Companies.

And most importantly, some lasting friendships have come from these events.

Former shelter resident Kenneth Roberson and Arielle Disick say they just clicked when they met several months ago. Disick recently visited Roberson's brand new apartment, his first after several years in the shelter system.

"He's an amazing friend and he always calls to check in and see how I'm doing ... I always end the call feeling so much better and lighter," Disick said.

"She's all that and a bag of chips," Roberson said. "To gain a friend meant the world to me, somebody that understands, you know, the journey."

Lichtman has held about 75 of these dinners over the past five years that Knock Knock Give A Sock has been around, and true to her Knock Knock roots, she always gives out two pairs of socks to everyone attending -- one to keep and one to give away.

For more information about Knock Knock Give a Sock, visit knockknockgiveasock.org.

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