Outreach Journal: February 24, 2024

February 24, 2024

On the morning of Saturday, February 24th, we started at the Cadillac Motel, as usual. What wasn’t expected was the number of people on site ready to help. Several people from Ridgewood Baptist Church and the Redemption Place Church were waiting and ready to serve, many of whom were newcomers, which was refreshing. Many from the community had already started assembling along the block wall, dividing the Motel property from the adjacent Barret-Fisher parking lot and waiting for the goods to become available.

My wife Kimberley and I had decided to experiment with the totes of clothes. We took ten or so of the forty-plus totes we had been blessed with off of our trailer and placed them on folding tables we had set up facing Second Street. The idea was that people could pick out what they wanted from the totes on the table and possibly cut down on the amount of clothes that typically get mixed in with one another. Meanwhile, our returning friend from Ridgewood also tried something new and set up portable clothes racks for clothes already on hangers to be displayed, hopefully making it easier for people to choose.

I set out across the street to start knocking on doors and quickly noticed a couple of boys without shirts or shoes playing with, I would surmise, a hardly weaned puppy. It was forty-eight degrees outside. They returned to one of the rooms when I caught up with them. I knocked on the door and asked who I figured was their mother if I could take the boys across the street to get them fixed with warm clothes and food. Much to my surprise, she agreed. However, I could only take one at a time since the eight and nine-year-old boys had to share shoes. I wrapped my coat around the first boy and walked him across the street, where he was quickly swept into the care of my wife and Brittany (name used with permission), a member of Redemption. As other volunteers knocked on doors, we eventually exchanged the first boy with the second. We delivered a couple of totes of provisioning to the mother and the remaining toddler living in that room.

By now, the trailer had been surrounded by a couple of layers of people, maybe thirty or so, searching through the totes we had for reserve. I guess our experiment didn’t work out as planned. Nevertheless, no one, including myself, was about to say anything about it. After all, that’s what it was there for. People were getting coats, gloves, hats, socks, shoes, and various clothes in a frenzy. Food reserves were already running low toward the back of the lot, next to the Barret-Fisher building. I noticed one of the boys, who had previously been shirtless, sat with Brittany on the concrete, eating some peanut butter crackers and drinking a bottle of water. He now had on a shirt and coat and, though he was tearful, was being lovingly consoled in only a way that a mother figure can.

Over on the Cadillac side of the wall, I noticed another table set up and a group of people handing out bean soup and something warm to drink. A young man sat down to play a guitar as some women fed the masses. Later, a woman came over and introduced themselves as being from River Tree Church. We had no idea they would be there that day, nor did they know we would be there doing our thing. Most people would call that a coincidence, but with God involved, I’m not sure I’m ready to believe that.

Having exhausted our food supplies, we packed everything onto the trailer and into the van belonging to our friends at Ridgewood and headed toward Tent City off Triad Lane. Upon arrival, Kim and I noticed a man standing in the valley. We stood on the railroad tracks, motioning for him to come toward us, but he stood still. I couldn’t blame him; we must’ve looked crazy. As I descended the valley, he started walking toward me, and we met. We’ll call him Larry. I explained why we were there, and Larry became more at ease. He explained that he had been living by a creek leading to the river and told me that he hadn’t bathed in several weeks. At that moment, it occurred to me that he lived away from the others camping on the bank of the river, and I wondered if that was a territorial thing. Larry joined us with the others who had arrived, and we removed the lids from the totes. As I’ve mentioned, how humble people experiencing homelessness are doesn’t cease to amaze me. Larry has gotten into a tote with hygiene products and is asking permission to have one or two of the dozens of items inside it. They’re more likely to take what they need and leave the rest for others. Utterly different from the other stops we make.

Suddenly, four or so vehicles head in our direction in formation down Triad Lane, much like you see law enforcement descending upon a scene in crisis. This doesn’t go unnoticed by Larry, whom I am standing next to, who asks if “it’s the cops.” No, it’s not law enforcement, but River Tree Church with their bean soup. Their representative, who had greeted us at the Cadillac Motel, is this tiny young lady. She runs up to me and tearfully hugs me. I thought I was supposed to console her and say something like, “It’s okay; you’ll get used to it,” but she explained that she was so happy to see that we were there. She explained that she frequently brought provisioning. Again, we just happened to be at the same place simultaneously. I still don’t think that’s a coincidence.


We took what we had left to the Colonel House Motel. This was our second time there, so I was less than apprehensive about pulling into the back parking lot and setting up shop. We set up our tables and unloaded the totes. Our friend from Ridgewood unloaded the clothes racks and loaded them up with clothes, which went well. The few interested people who lived there looked through the totes and got what they needed. There were still many vacant rooms, as they were uninhabitable.

Having received several requests to visit Dixiana Court, we decided to stop there on our way back to the shop. It made sense because we drove right by there anyway. This was our first time there, so we didn’t know what we were doing. We did what we always did and just haphazardly set up shop in a parking lot. I started knocking on doors toward the back of the property and quickly established that we were not in the typical neighborhood we would frequent. The residents were older, many of whom had difficulty navigating to the door and would’ve certainly been unable to walk to the front of the property. Although I fall short every day, I try not to judge a book by the cover, but these folks didn’t seem to live in poverty.

I won’t forget the encounter I had when I knocked on one of these doors because, in a split second, it helped me define who we were. The older lady opened the door, and I said, “We’re in the front parking lot giving away clothing if you’re interested.” She sternly replied, with a scowled face, “And who are we?” Without even thinking, I replied, “We’re just people.” She quickly dropped her defensive demeanor and replied, “Oh.” And throughout the remainder of the day, it got me thinking. We’re not representing my store, a church, or a nonprofit. We’re nobody, and I think I like it that way. We’re just people, and our agenda is to help other people. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Often, the best way to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus is through your actions. And sometimes nothing else.

Eventually, I worked my way up to the front of the property and started to run into many Burmese families. There was an obvious language barrier, but I managed. By the time I made it around to where we were set up in the parking lot, the trailer was surrounded by people picking out what they needed from the totes. Our friend from Ridgewood had the clothes racks set up and stood by, just taking in the marvel of it all.

I found a couple of overlooked totes in the bed of my truck and pulled them out. One was full of hygiene products and hand warmers. One of the men spoke a little English and conveyed that he and a group of men with him worked in the cold at Purdue. My wife, Kim, picked up on this and tried to relay to them what the hand warmers were. But they were not getting it. Finally, she opened one of the packages and touched the hand warmer to the back of the man’s hand. The expression on his face was priceless. He translated this to his friends, and the two cases of these hand warmers disappeared almost instantly. Children were grabbing up toothbrushes like they were candy. The whole experience was just fun.

Although these residents could not verbally express their appreciation, you could tell. It’s well worth the time. The language, in this case, was universal.


At the end of the day, Kim and I were exhausted. We unloaded everything at the shop and went to a local sit-down restaurant. I’m sitting there at this clean table, waiting for a nice lady to bring us a hot meal and reflecting on the day. It’s surreal. Someone felt fortunate to eat out of a can at that exact moment. And often, I complain?

Fast Forward. Back to the boys at the Cadillac Motel, who were playing outside without shirts or shoes. Our friend Brittany befriended the mother and was allowed to take the boys on outings, such as to church and out to eat. She also purchased them toys and additional needed clothing. In our shared reality, we would say she was allowed to “love on them.” Brittany reported that, according to the boys, they had yet to experience some of these things, such as skating, playing football, or church. Some of the things that perhaps you and I took for granted. And then, in a flash, they were gone. Their mother apparently moved out of town without notice.

Unfortunately, this is typical. Our friend Ms. Patty would tell one heartbreaking story after another where she would get attached to a family and then find that they were evicted, arrested, or otherwise displaced. More often, it’s the rule and not the exception. You learn not to get emotionally attached. Yet, sometimes, you get hurt regardless of how much effort you try to guard your heart. I thought that by this point in my life, I would be able to be a bit more calloused.


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