Every Tuesday, we highlight entrepreneurs and leaders that are not only making a name for themselves, but are also showing generosity in unique ways. The individuals we choose are ones that have inspired us to continue doing what we love and are shining examples of what Take Heart Apparel Co. stands for as an organization. These individuals have shown the ability to be enterprising and generous and are not only changing the lives of those around them, but even of those all across the world. They are community leaders and world changers.
This week, our Tuesday Spotlight features the sometimes absurd, but always encouraging and inspiring Mariano Leonczik. Mariano first reached out to us when he heard about Take Heart and wanted to learn more about getting tees for his team. The tees still haven’t happened, but that first conversation kickstarted a powerful friendship. We recently had the opportunity to hang out with Mariano and the Guerrilla crew and it was a blessing to join them handing out hand prepared meals on a cold Sunday evening in Penn Station. As Guerrilla develops into something far deeper and far wider than many would have anticipated, it is a privilege to be a part of their family, even from 1,200 miles away.
What is Guerrilla?
We just had a team meeting this weekend where we finally got down to write out what Guerrilla was. Don’t quote me on this, but it’s somewhere along the lines of “a communal church that helps to pull people out of where they are, into what Jesus wants them to be.” I’d say we’re a church-in-progress, which is pretty crazy to say actually, but I think Guerrilla is all about a lifestyle of servitude and generosity. It extends past our church services and food distribution days into what we do throughout the rest of the month. Guerrilla is co-lead by the lovely and gracious and weird Diana, and the normal and plain myself.
What does your name mean?
Our name comes from the concept of Guerrilla warfare; you know, a small, untrained, under-manned, low-on-supplies group of local soldiers who take on a major enemy. Obviously, we’re not soldiers and we don’t have weapons, but we are up against a bigger enemy. We really believe that we can do small little “attacks” in the form of projects and events, to rally people towards Jesus, and eventually empower them enough to join the cause. We’re after more members, but not in a “let’s recruit people” way. More of a “people NEED to see and hear and experience the love that Jesus gave us first” sort of way. Sorry I got off-track here, haha!
Where is Guerrilla based?
Well this chapter is a mix between NJ and NY, but we believe in expansion and that Guerrilla is more of lifestyle that applies to wherever our team members are. So when people go back home from college to further away places, Guerrilla will be there too. We’d like to be in Detroit soon, and in the future, even places like Portugal and Russia.
What is the story of how Guerrilla began?
This is the wild part really. I was talking to one of my closest friends, Maria, about how bad our cities needed Jesus, and how they had needs that had to be met, but weren’t being met. She’s from Detroit, and I was raised in NJ, but am always in NYC, so we were used to the broken, urban environment. From there we decided to get to work and learn to serve our communities. I wasn’t really in the best state of being at that point, but it felt like God was really putting this on my heart. So I got some friends involved and we had our first distribution day on July…28th? That was 8 months ago. Today, we’re holding church services once a month, and distributing food to the homeless on Sundays, every Sunday, without showing signs of slowing down.
Your crew has a different appearance and style than a typical church group or ministry. How does that affect and influence your ministry?
We’re very fashion forward. A lot of our members go to F.I.T., huge fashion school in NYC, and I can see how that influenced how we dress and look. Which is awesome, because people don’t expect to see 20-year-olds who are wearing snapbacks and tight jeans, boots and leather, with tattoos and buzzed heads to be handing out food and doing life with some less fortunate people. It’s made us more relatable to people who don’t like traditional church or church-culture, and even people our age.
What are some characteristics that make you unique compared to other food distribution organizations and charities?
See, we aren’t just that. In NYC and NJ, we have a large homeless population, and so we chose to take action to help fill that gap. It’s a need unique to our area. If Guerrilla were to extend to Springfield, MO, homeless ministry might not be what your area needs. It might be volunteers at soup kitchens or people in mentoring programs for troubled youth. Let me point out that we also have two projects in the Guerrilla family, one being the Good Water project, the other being the #MyNameIsProject. Good Water was started by our friend Emma, and it’s just such a great idea. We leave cards with encouraging and positive messages scattered throughout wherever we go, in the hopes that someone would slow down to read them, and walk away refreshed and encouraged. In a region where our lifestyle is all about “go, go, go,” we can cater to the needs of those who are burnt out and weary, through scripture and motivational messages. The #MyNameIsProject was actually adopted just this past weekend. Created by our friend Tara, this project focuses on reminding people that their identity lies in God, and no where else. NYC is a city filled with people searching for their identity, and who they are, or who they can be, and this project reminds them to look where it really matters; look towards the one who made you. What makes us unique is that we aren’t a group that’s doing things how people would expect. We’re new and open to strange and unorthodox outreach methods, and stand behind these projects, believing that Jesus can be shown in more ways that we think.
What are your goals for the future?
We need a permanent venue to call home, a place where we can hold services bi-monthy, and eventually weekly. We’d also like to step up our apparel line and introduce more street-friendly oriented clothing where the proceeds go straight back into helping people who are on the streets.
What does a normal week look like for your team?
We really like going to diners. One guy on our team, Ben, said something once that stuck to me. He spoke about how he likes to “do life” with people, as in he invites people into all aspects of his life. Our weeks consist of doing life with one another. From getting lunch and planning, to being someone’s co-pilot on a car ride, to taking a team member’s family to the airport so that they can get back home. We’re all about doing life with one another, and living like the church did in the book of Acts.
Who are some people and organizations that inspire you?
Take Heart does. You guys helped us get started and off of our feet. Everyone on the team inspires me to work harder and be better, especially since they consider me a leader. (They have no idea that I have no idea what I’m doing.) Jesus too. I know that’s the stereotypical over-saved church kid answer, but it’s true. Jesus hung out with the outcast and the sick, the overlooked and the poor. That’s what we want to do.
How can people learn more or get involved?
We have an email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. We can answer any questions there, you can get involved to help serve, or even pick up some hats or shirts. Our twitter is @GuerrillaNJNY and Instagram is @the_guerrilla_njny so definitely follow us there for updates and such. Also shoot Good Water a follow on Twitter, @goodwater14, and IG @goodwaterproject. And then search the hashtag #mynameisproject for some pictures of the #MyNameIsProject. I’m also just going to give thanks to everyone at Guerrilla; team leaders, volunteers, and people who support us. Shout out to the ride-or-dies, Ben, Brendan, Joao, Diana, Emma, Dayra, Tara and Diana. We would not be where we are today without you guys.