At the barbershop
(Photo credits: ROBERT TORRENCE)
Hundreds Gather for Hot Meals, Hope
As a part of their mission to improve the quality of life in our community, Mothers In Action, teamed up with the Brotherhood Crusade once again to host their annual Friends Serving Friends homeless feed on Skid Row on Towne Avenue (between 4th St & 5th St.) this past Saturday April 14. A host of volunteers from all walks of life came out to help serve hot meals, distribute hygiene supplies, blankets, fresh fruit, shoes, clothing valuable resource information and much needed health screenings, while offering a sense of hope and a chance at self improvement to Los Angeles' most downtrodden population. From 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, hundreds of people lined up for fried fish, coleslaw, French fries and rolls, free health screenings, haircuts (courtesy of Crenshaw Barbershop) and giveaways. Radio Free, KJLH provided music for the event, adding to the already festive atmosphere.
"It really felt good to give something back," said first time volunteer Terrence from Fresno, who came with One in Christ Church to the event.
"I like giving because my mom was homeless once upon a time," he said.
Stephen Calhoun, a young minister in training, also from OICC and also a first time volunteer said Friends Serving Friends was a great opportunity to "show Christ's love and to give back to those in need."
"It's more than just the giving, it's being (to them) the light and the likeness of the Lord and showing them that there's hope. [And,] we could see that we definitely touched the lives of those who were in need. They were very appreciative of everything we gave..."
Alongside the first time volunteers, were first time attendees. Some said they had not known about the event before this year. Others said they were glad to receive sorely needed items like toothbrushes and soap.
Miseries seemed to be forgotten as the blustery afternoon wore on. People danced, laughed and chatted, making the event more family-reunion-like than charity. The happy mood was still lingering by 2:00 pm while chairs were folded and booths were packed away. Mothers In Action was very grateful for the three community chefs that took time out of their day and businesses to prepare food for this most worthy event, Georgette Powell of Mel's Fish Shack, Chef Muriel Shabazz and Chef Marilyn of 99 cents Soul Food.
"I love Brenda [Marsh Mitchell, MIA president and CEO] and I love the vision she provides for those who are disenfranchised and going through times of transition," said OICC's Pastor Hamilton of why this is his fourth year at Friends Serving Friends.
"I believe our faith has to be tangible. We can't just tell people that 'you can do better and that there's help for you,' unless we come down and say, 'look this is what we're actually providing.'"
And providing food is important, he said.
"In order for us to have access to the homeless to meet their greater needs, we have to begin by providing some of the more immediate needs by feeding them. Once you begin to show people that you care then they begin to be open with you so that you can have some dialogue (about) some of the decisions they may be making..."
"When I look at some of the needs, I definitely know that if we're going to change the homeless population, it is going to take some hands on [effort.] I know that it's not something that we can do once a year or every six months. It's something where we have to adopt people so that we can literally commune with them and they feel safe with us and we're actually able to speak some things into their lives."
For their part, Hamilton and the OICC have adopted the people who live under the bridge near Adams and Vermont close to where their church is located. They provide them with hygiene kits, clothing and other necessities. However, he said, community members who are able to share their time and resources could significantly help organizations like OICC and Mothers In Action make a difference among the homeless population.
"I would say, if you have one to two hours a month to actually help us with the homeless... it doesn't take a lot of time, maybe fifteen minutes to show your face to some in an area that we have adopted," explained Hamilton.
Among those who did show their love and support for Saturday's event, making a difference to those in need, were the Gas Company, LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, L.A. County Department of Social Services, Toy Loan, the City of Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Senator Curren Price, Council president Herb Wesson and Councilmember Jan Perry. Other sponsors included the Los Angeles Sentinel, L.A. Watts Times, City of Refuge, RFP Insurance, Clarence Avant, Shelter Partnership, Walgreens, Clean Up America, The David Gould Company,American Foothill, Clean & Green and Pacific America Volunteer Association, Jethro/Restaurant Depot. Providing free healthcare services and resource information were The Children's Dental Center, Explorer-1 Ambulance, AIDS Health, JWHC, Black Hypertension, Mothers Nutritional Health and the Coalition of Mental Health.