During last year’s free People’s Community Outreach held at North Park, volunteers dished up 800 meals, distributed 400 backpacks filled with school supplies, arranged for more than 65 haircuts, snapped 150 family photos and gave out hundreds of clothing items and Bibles.
This year, they’re trying to get the jump on donations so that the second annual outreach, set for 11 a.m. through 4 p.m. on Aug. 11 again at North Park, will be an even bigger success.
“Last year went even better than we anticipated,” said Brenda Bonogofsky, who chairs the outreach. “We were thinking we’d have 200 people and we had 600. This year, we’re hoping to connect even more people” with services designed to help residents going through a difficult time.
RiverStone Health, HRDC, the Southside Community Fellowship, Volunteers of America, the HUB and almost a dozen other agencies will be on hand during this year’s event “to give our families in need a link to their unique services,” Bonogofsky said.
Event sponsors seek a variety of donations for this year’s outreach, including:
- Clothing, winter coats, shoes and socks, school supplies and backpacks.
- Tables and chairs, paper products and utensils.
- Additional volunteers, including people to perform dramatic skits, staff the event and tear it down afterward.
- Sponsorship, including table sponsors, and food, beverage and gift card providers.
- Items for kits given to people experiencing homelessness, including socks, bandages, snacks, bottles of water and hygiene items.
Bonogofsky describes the event as “a fun, free day in the park with food, family games, music, haircuts, back-to-school backpacks and our community agencies.”
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Two stories that occurred during last year's inaugural event stick out in her mind.
A very tall man told volunteers he was looking for jeans because he generally has a hard time finding pants long enough.
“They found six pairs of jeans that fit him perfectly,” Bonogofsky said.
Pressing his luck, he asked for shirts with snaps rather than buttons, because he has a hard time buttoning his shirts. “Our volunteers looked, and they found him six shirts,” she said. “How amazing was that?”
Then there was the mother searching for clothes for her son. She told him to go play while she looked, and she managed to find several items.
When her son returned from playing, he saw the clothes and noticed something missing.
“Dad needs pajamas,” he told her mother. His father, Bonogofsky noted, was home fighting cancer.
“We would love to grow,” Bonogofsky said. “We hope that we can connect even more people with services, and track people so we can gather even more stories.”