I met a man whose alias name shall be Mike. Mike had expressed to me that he wasn’t homeless. However, the little that he made on his job was barely to pay all of his bills. This left him with limited resources to pay for his necessities like food, clothes, and toiletries. He was grateful for Reach and Love coming out to serve him because he was in need of the items that we were giving away. Shortly after having a conversation with Mike, a minister of the local church looked at the items in the bag and approached me and stated that the items we give away do not serve the “truly homeless.” I was in shock and offended when I heard his comment. What is “truly homeless”? Is it those whom we ignore daily; people with torn up clothes who are sleeping on the bench? What about those who are unable to afford stable housing forcing them to live with family members, in shelters or transitional housing facilities?
Never once did the minister ask about our experiences serving people in need or about the relationships we have built along our journey. He never had the chance to discover my personal experience with homelessness as a child and that the items he deemed ineffective were actually resources that I wish had regular access to while experiencing homelessness. At times my mother couldn’t afford things like a toothbrush, so I learned how to use a washcloth and toothpaste to “brush my teeth.” I learned how to take a “bird bath” with a washcloth, hand soap and common sink area because of the lack of accessibility to a clean bathtub or shower. I learned how to scrape lotion from a lotion bottle so that I wouldn’t be ashy all day; swiftly avoiding the trauma and verbal abuse of extremely honest and brash grade schoolers. The minister of this church seem to had chose to be ignore my story for the sake of feeling right. It was at this moment, as the painful memories of my life flashed before my eyes, that I wanted to pack up all of the donations, toiletries, and snacks to close up the Fill-A-Gallon event and never do it again. Embarrassed and shocked, volunteers standed around looking at me waiting for a response. I mustered up a politically correct and respectful, “Thank you for your comments. We will take that into consideration.” Yet, in my heart, I knew I had to pause and reflect on my personal experience of being homeless and the fact that this minister was unable to listen to my story because he positioned himself in opposition of our cause.
Today, I choose to listen to Mike’s story, reflect on my own, and all of the other positive comments that come from the people we serve. We get to listen to their stories without rushing to judgement which is a luxury for us and a right of the person sharing. When we enter into these spaces and ask people if we can join them for the evening and serve them, they share their stories with us. People ask us for prayer, we exchange hugs, we develop relationships. We find out what their needs are and do our best to meet them. I have met many people like Mike during our Fill-A-Gallon events. Working people that make just enough to get by, but have to decide whether to pay for groceries or to keep their electricity on. Leveraging the stress of deciding to either pay for their children’s clothes and hygiene needs or pay the water or gas bill. This last event caused me to re-evaluate the mission and vision of Reach and Love. I included low - income families in our mission and vision because people in need are not always just experiencing homelessness. There may be an intersection of barriers that impact multiple layers of their lives. Reach and Love is afforded the opportunity to humbly serve and love people from various financial backgrounds as we listen and meet the needs of people based on their prayer requests, conversations, and more. Throughout the Bible we are told to serve those in need (examples: Proverbs 3:27, Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 22:9, Romans 12:13, Matthew 25:44 - 45, Luke 3:10, James 2:14 - 17, Luke 10:25 - 37). This is not based upon their outward appearance. We at Reach and Love choose to serve and listen to those who are experiencing any financial hardships and / or homelessness.
It was only 1 day after I had received the news that my younger brother had been murdered in california. I did not know if i would be able to serve or what i should do. but once i was out there an encountered so many friendly and generous people, my spirit was lifted and comforted. it was so nice to be around familiar faces. and such beautiful people. We had 2 new volunteers and they jumped right in and made our friends feel loved! It was such an honor to serve with these ladies along with all of our volunteers. Without them, we would not have been able to serve over 70 people, as we gave away 77 care packages. We were also able to stop by Karis Emergency Shelter and provide the ladies with shower shoes and hygiene products. I am looking forward to our next event on may 20th!!!
We had the awesome privilege of giving over 80 toiletry care packages to our friends experiencing homelessness. One of our volunteers brought 90 turkey and ham sandwiches that we were able to give away! We partnered with Rob Williams, who runs Homeless Outreach: CALM(Compassion-Aid-Love-Mercy) out of Towson, MD, and received a ton of blankets and winter accessories to give out. While serving we met quite a bit new friends because some of our friends had been displaced since the blizzard took place earlier this year. It was awesome to serve with the volunteers! They really did a great job serving our friends and making them feel welcomed and loved. I enjoyed watching them engage in conversation with our friends, and extending themselves to ensure that our friends had what they needed. I was able to see how much eye contact from our volunteers to our friends made a positive difference in our friends demeanor. It was just an awesome reminder that whenever I see any of our friends on the street, to make eye contact. Eye contact reminds us that we are important and human. We had a few new volunteers who thoroughly enjoyed themselves and are looking forward to serving next month!
A few of our friends asked for prayer for their health, safety, sanity and shelter. While we were able to pray with them on the spot, I am asking that you join us in continuing to pray for them for these specific areas. As always,thank you for your prayers, donations, and compassion for this ministry. It is not in vain. I am excited to see what God is going to do through you all for our next event!!
Due to weather conditions we decided to postpone our original date of Dec. 24th to Dec. 31st. This turned out to be a huge blessing for some of the 30+ people we were fortunate to serve blankets. It was different in a great way. We were able to serve on a day that was not typical for people to serve on. And not only this but we were able to provide donated blankets and winter accessories to our friends experiencing homelessness, to somewhat endure the “Code Blue” that was declared a few days later. A community in Eldersburg came together to create winter accessories and wrapped them up so that our friends could have a gift to open, to remind them that someone is thinking and praying for them!
During our time of serving, we made a new friend with a woman named Marissa* who had outgrown her shoes, but had not had any new pair of shoes for 4 years. Because of the generous hearts of our donors, we were able to provide her with a new pair of shoes that fit perfectly for her! We also made a new friend with a man named John* who was in dire need of a new coat, due to his falling into pieces. The smile on his face when he found a coat that was not only his size but kept him warm, completely made my day! Then we ran out of blankets...until a man from Towson came by and asked if he could give out blankets with us!! So we were able to see our friends receive more than we could give them!! God provided!
We had a 4 new volunteers with us, and they did an amazing job serving our friends! Serving provided them with a greater compassion for our friends! I am always praying that our perspective changes when we think about someone who is experiencing homelessness; that we do not define them by their living situations, but see them as people who still need love. So to hear this from our volunteers ALWAYS makes my day!
Thanks again to everyone who decided to support this event!! Our next event will take place on February 20 at 5pm! We hope to see you there!!
* = Names of friends are given alias names for identity protection purposes.
Hi friends! At our Nov. 21 Fill-A-Gallon, we were able to give away 50 bags of toiletries, winter accessories, clothes, snacks and water!! Last month, one of our friends whom we serve was in need of some pants, but we didn't have any in his size. Fortunately, this time around, because of your generosity, we were able to provide him with 2 pair of pants just for him!!
I love serving our friends because for a moment we get to stop and listen to their stories. At our last Fill-A-Gallon, I got to spend time with one of our friends named Anthony*. It was great to see him because I hadn't seen him since our party in April. He was telling me about how he has to break down his tent about every 2 days regardless of the weather. I couldn't believe what he was telling me and it frustrated me that it is his reality. I also got to see James* again! He has kind of adopted me as his daughter in this unique community (which is a HUGE privilege!) He introduced me to his son, which was another huge privilege!
Another part of serving that I enjoy is hearing volunteers' reaction after having served this beautiful community. For one of our volunteers it was her first time serving, but she is a faithful donor. After having served she told me that she was grateful to be able to serve our friends, and raved about how kindhearted and humble they were towards her. It inspired her to connect with her neighbors to see what they could do to help out! It is definitely an eye opening experience, and reminds you to slow down and just listen to their stories. I am anticipating our what our Dec. 24th Fill-A-Gallon will bring!!
- Anjelica B.
* = alias names used to protect the identity of the people we serve