Sunday, December 13, 2020

Heartside Park Project ~ 2020 & 2021

On this very memorable date in history, we visited our friends at Heartside Park and delivered 5+ tables full of goods.
But a lot had to occur in the previous weeks to allow this to happen. Cassie donated these frequently requested items and Betsy & Brian dropped off always needed dental supplies.
Myra went through her closets and brought over boxes of clothing, shoes, and bags.
Sue made two trips through Flat River Outreach Ministry this month and purchased these always requested items. And with the financial contributions we've received, we were able to buy toiletries, food, and other items not donated.
All of this found new homes today with people in the Heartside neighborhood.
Ellen gifted us with some food so we were able to serve chicken salad sandwiches and oranges along with our usual turkey and cheese sandwiches (and chips, candy, water, and water flavorings).
It's so helpful to have young muscle help carry everything up from the basement to the cars.
We drove three full cars to the park and had a nice setup for people to shop for what they wanted.
John was able to get us dozens of donuts from Sprinkles and they were a big hit. These three were very able assistants and enjoyed interacting with our neighbors.
We are going to need another table as too many people had to dig through boxes on the ground.
Thank you to everyone who continues to contribute in his/her own way, donating goods, time, and/or financial support. None of this would be possible without the village we've built. Contact me for ways to help 💗
We had a grand time at Heartside Park today, seeing old friends and making some new ones.
Sandwich making went quickly.
We received a large donation of socks from Mark and Bianca, and more socks and backpacks from John and Kathy so we were well stocked. And thank you for the pop donation, Dave & Tammi!
The giveaway went smoothly, and thanks to your financial donations we were able to purchase and distribute high demand items like shoes, belts, shirts, sunglasses, and lots of toiletries.
The grant money for food from The Community is now used up. So going forward, we will be paying for the food we bring as well as for the toiletries, clothing, etc. Each month we provide turkey and cheese sandwiches, chips, food bars, candy, water, and water flavorings, and it is all so appreciated. If you'd like to become a monthly, bi-monthly, annual, or any other kind of donor 😊, please contact me for my address or my venmo account. And please join us at Heartside Park the second Saturday of the month (next date is September 11) for an hour well spent.
A huge thank you to all of you who are already donating goods and funds for the people of the Heartside neighborhood 💗

Each month we are growing with volunteers, and products to give away, and today at the park was a fantastic experience!
We started as usual with sandwich-making.
Sprinkles in Ada donated dozens of donuts that they normally would have thrown out (thanks for acquiring these, John!) and Melissa at Fountain Street Church gave us loads of items that are always in demand at Heartside Park.
Last month, Mark & Troy organized a get-together at Gravel Bottom Brewery that garnered us popular items along with cash for the park project.
Your financial contributions allow us to purchase needed items from the Dollar Store and local thrift shops.
After sandwiches were made, we loaded up multiple cars and headed down to the park to set up.
People selected what they wanted from six full tables, and a good time was had by all.
Our next Heartside Park day will be August 14. Feel free to join us! You won't be sorry 😊
Special thanks to all of our regular donors and volunteers!

We had some new helpers today and they come highly recommended!
Heartside Park was full of people and we gave away most of what we brought with us. Deodorant and razors always go the quickest, followed by clothing, socks, and the food, of course 😊
Two pairs of feet were made very happy, and three people were thrilled to get a plastic bag mat made by Sandy K and her students.
T-shirts went fast and furious along with some dress shirts (thanks Laurie R & Sue L)!
It was another grand day at the park and we are so thankful for the opportunity to get to know our Heartside neighbors 💗 Our next visit will be the 3rd Saturday in July, July 17th. Hope to see you
Feel free to contact me for ways to help and/or to volunteer.

What a great time we had today!
We made quick work of the sandwiches and when we got to the park, Cowboy was waiting and we were able to give him two pairs of cowboy boots as he requested (thanks, Dave!).
These t-shirts that came all the way from North Carolina were the hot ticket items today (thanks, Harry & Sherrie!).
Toiletries, food, and clothing were carefully selected by each person who came to the tables.
When the people at the tables run out, we go to them.
Purple East has now closed as a shelter so those who are not willing or able to sleep indoors elsewhere are in nearby outdoor camps, like this polite fellow who goes by "Dragon." He collected a few things for his friend at their camp as well as for himself.
If you have never been to Heartside Park, you are missing out on some wonderful people. 
Our next Saturday at Heartside Park will be June 12. Contact me ( if you would like to participate or donate!
 We're still looking for a few more households to donate $20.00/month to continue to be able to serve our Heartside neighbors, and donations of goods/food are always welcome as well.
(Thanks for this week's cheese donation, Laurie!)
Thank you to all volunteers and donors for opening your hearts to our often unseen neighbors 💗
(Three special requests this week: size 14 sneakers, and two tents. People are back sleeping outside.)

In no time flat today, the sandwiches were made and cars were loaded.
All items were offered a la carte and some people likened it to a fun shopping experience, but it was all free 😊
Here are a few other people we greeted today.
and Leo who turns 72 this week.
When the line was gone, a couple of us walked around the park to give away the rest of the sandwiches and ice cream bars. Just like some people don't like to walk into a shelter and check-in in order to receive assistance, others don't want to stand in a line in the park for food. It's our pleasure to serve those people.
Going forward, we're looking to find 25 households to donate $20.00/month and we can then continue to serve the Heartside neighbors throughout the year with food, toiletries, socks, clothing, etc. Financial contributions can no longer be made through the Community Church in Ada but donations of goods can continue to be dropped off in the bin on the church front porch (7239 Thornapple River Dr SE, Ada MI 49301). Donations need to be sent to me directly by mail or venmo (contact me for details).
Any and all are welcome to meet and greet our neighbors at Heartside Park on the second Saturday of every month. Email me if you are interested ( Thank you, on behalf of the people of Heartside!

This morning's sandwich making went fast and we were soon headed downtown.
Having the tables and a la carte service worked well once again. Socks, hats, knit gloves, t-shirts, and toiletries went quickly. When the line was gone, we walked around the park with the remaining food, gave it all away, and met some great people.
One passerby donated his cash on hand to go towards what we are doing 💗
Going forward, we'll be at the park the second Saturday of every month. So until next time!
Thank you to all donors and volunteers ~ the people of the Heartside neighborhood appreciate you more than you can know 💗

Based on last week's adaptation, we not only distributed the toiletries a la carte but also did the same with the lunches. So the food process went quickly.
Our cookie baker this week was Tammi who dropped them off today with Dave. Thank you both!
Due to the generosity of the Boots and Veenstras, we were able to take our own tables downtown this week!
The Jordans stopped by with a huge plastic bag donation and to get a Flash hat for Miles 💗
In an hour we had sandwiches made, three vehicles loaded up with food and toiletries, and we headed for Heartside Park. Our system worked smoothly and efficiently. People lined up and filled a bag with what they wanted.
We had many happy and pleasant interactions but none as good as the one with Juice. He and his Dad hung around for a while, we got a sort of grimace for a "smile" and a sweet wave goodbye when they left.
It was a lovely day at the park with some beautiful people.
If you're looking for ways to contribute, this is a list of what makes up our lunches each week:
14 loaves of bread
10 lbs of sliced meat
100 slices of cheese
100 bags of assorted chips
100 food bars
100 juice boxes
200 cookies
200 mini chocolate candy bars
100 of each, mayo & mustard packs
2 cases of bottled water
Any of these items would be a welcome donation, along with any other food ideas you might have.
And assorted toiletries and socks are always needed.
Thank you to all of our donors and volunteers! 

It's hard to believe but this was our 13th straight week of going to Heartside Park. And we changed it up a bit this week. 
Instead of just Roy and me driving down with a car full of goods and distributing from the back of the car, a small group came with us and brought tables. We set up a much more efficient and enjoyable process in which more of us could participate. Before that though it was sandwich making as per usual on the church front porch.
Guiding Light gave us two large donations of food and coats this week.
Our cookie bakers of the week were Kathy & Kieryn Gruizenga, the Kinder family, and one anonymous baker.
Heartside neighbors helped us unload the cars when we arrived and we laid out the goods and food for whoever wanted them.
We were really happy with this new process and several neighbors made positive comments. "Hey, you're not at the back of your car." "You brought some friends!" 
Most of the lunches were handed out but with the few remaining and other goods we made a quick trip downtown on Monday and used the back-of-the-car mode again.
Jorge was happy to see us and the feeling was mutual.
The always creative Amanda brought me a bracelet she had made 💗
So our new system going forward will be to meet at the church front porch at 10:30 on Saturdays to make sandwiches and then (whoever wants to) transport the snacks, sandwiches, toiletries, and clothing to Heartside Park, set up tables, and enjoy the company of the Heartside neighbors.
To that end, we are looking for donations of 5 six-foot tables that fold in half for easy transportation in any sized car. The tables will be stored at church and available for anyone's use. (Quick update: we now have our 5 tables! If you are looking for other ways to donate, we can use socks, gloves, hats, and toiletries.)
Thanks to everyone who supports this project of giving back, and special thanks to Guiding Light Mission and the Community Church for their support.

Saturday afternoon was another great time with generous and willing souls on the front porch of church.
If you bring your children, they will be taught the ways of recycling 😊 
Thank you to our bakers this week: Jan and the Oliveras family.
Guiding Light donated over 300 lbs of goods to us this week.
On Saturday, the coats caused such a frenzy we finally laid them down on the ground where they promptly disappeared.
Sunday was another golden day and the remaining lunches from the 120+ made were given away.
After today, our supplies of socks, gloves, and toiletries are severely depleted but everyone went away with something.
Cowboy is looking for a pair of sized 10 cowboy boots and a new cowboy hat so let me know if you have access to either.
And the usually taciturn John came up to our car and thanked us for being at the park with goods and food so often, in case no one else ever thanked us 💗
We'll be back mid-week with some additional snack bags we couldn't fit in the car this weekend so we'll see you then, beautiful people.
Thank you to Guiding Light Mission and The Community Church for their continuing, no-strings-attached support, and thanks to all of our volunteers and donors.

During our mid-week visit to Heartside Park, we thought this truck was going to run us down but they were just pulling up for some food after seeing our car 😊
Guiding Light Mission not only donates food and clothing to us but they also help load up the car.
Saturday was a beautiful day in the 40s and another stellar group of volunteers gathered to put everything together on The Community Church front porch. 💗
This week's cookies were baked by the Kinder family, who persevered even during a power outage.
We gave away over half of the food (lunches & snack bags) on Saturday, and made two trips on Sunday with the remaining food and also with coats, t-shirts, gloves, socks, hats, scarves, and toiletry kits. My favorite comment from this weekend was from a person who told me that just because she looked pretty it did not mean she was not homeless. Fair point, but we are not here judging anyone. Just take what you want/need. 💗
With Sunday being a bit drizzly, we were happy we had a few umbrellas on hand. Water was requested more often than usual and we had one person ask for a baseball cap. Spring is right around the corner. Thank you to every donor and volunteer, and special thanks to Guiding Light Mission in Grand Rapids and The Community Church in Ada for their support in showing love & compassion to the homeless & indigent of Grand Rapids, our neighbors. 

Earlier in the week, we rode downtown with snack bags and a previous coat donation from Guiding Light. We had a coat for this lovely person and twice this week she was accused by the shelter she was staying in as having stolen it. We may have to start giving out receipts with the coats 😶
Running into Sterlin was a huge highlight for me. I hadn't seen him at all and was happy to see he was still walking this earth. 
We picked up another generous food and clothing donation from Guiding Light on Thursday.
After sorting through what we had and what we needed, we purchased more food, courtesy of The Community Church in Ada. And on Saturday, we met on the church front porch to put it all together.
We gave away a little of everything on Saturday afternoon but today was incredible. The line behind our car stretched down the block and we gave away the rest of the 120+ lunches and the 60+ toiletry kits. Tons of gloves and socks, and the sweatshirts we had, were gone in 40 minutes. It was such a joyful time for all of us. Having an item to offer that someone else needs creates a perfect moment in time.
A few of these mats were in a donation we received this week, and through our contacts at City Impact Church in Cedar Springs we've reached out to the mat maker who just needs our plastic bags (Meijer style). So save your bags (drop off at the church bin or our condo). And if you know anyone who makes these mats and might be willing to teach some of  us, please reach out to him/her! It would be a great group project 😉
Thanks again to all of you who donate your time, money, and goods. So much happiness was given to so many people today 💗. Special thanks always to The Guiding Light Mission in Grand Rapids and The Community Church in Ada.

Having more food and clothing to give away, we made a few trips downtown earlier this week.
On Thursday morning, we picked up a food donation from Guiding Light that we would use for our Saturday lunch preparation. Thank you, Guiding Light, for your continued support!
Thanks to the Community Church in Ada, we not only have funding for food, but we also have a place to stage and inventory our toiletries, and food.
Three households baked cookies for us this week ~ thank you, bakers!
And on Saturday, we gathered on the chilly front porch of the Community Church to put together lunches, snack bags, and toiletry kits.
Lunches were made special with Valentine's Day cards (thanks, Rockford Middle School), and with those and some toiletry kits & coats, we took a trip to Heartside Park Saturday afternoon. The coats were gone promptly along with some lunches and kits.
Sunday being the second Sunday of the month, we knew City Impact Church from Cedar Springs would be at the park. Michele from City Impact and I have gotten to know each other from the Heartside Park visits and she generously offered us space at their table today. She also asked some of her people to help us upload our car. What a great group!
When they found out the city had removed the grills from the park, they brought one of their own for roasting marshmallows, making s'mores, and just letting people warm their hands.
The church also provided soup, hot chocolate, cupcakes, cookies, and other miscellaneous food and clothing items. Our offered goods combined beautifully and together we were able to warm, feed, and clothe lots of people. There's an added intensity being with a large group of people. Roy and I enjoy every trip we make to Heartside Park, getting to meet and talk to people, but today had an additional layer of energy added to it. 
As usual, we saw old friends and made new friends.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!
Thank you to all of our donors and supporters: local businesses, friends, strangers, Guiding Light in Grand Rapids, and The Community Church in Ada.

Earlier in the week, we picked up another very generous donation from Guiding Light in Grand Rapids. The best part were the funny hats (coming your way, every child we know).
A cart full of food and clothing that will all be put to good use!
Once again, we did our prep work on Saturday, outside of The Community church in Ada, this time with 18 degree temperatures.
Thanks to The Community, Guiding Light, and our many individual donors and volunteers, we were able to put together almost 100 lunches, and 50 each of toiletry kits and snack bags. Our cookie bakers this week were the Rupke/Lathwell families who provided about 200 cookies for the lunches!
When the snacks packs were assembled, we switched to toiletries and worked until one of the essential items ran out.
With the car loaded with goods, we decided to take a trip downtown on Saturday in addition to Sunday.
 But first we needed a group photo. Practice (and people's attention) makes perfect 😀
When we got to Heartside Park we noticed a bit of a rumpus going on but no one seemed to pay it much mind.
We gave away most of the gloves & all of the coats/sweatshirts we received from Guiding Light this week, along with many lunches and toiletry kits.
Our last two pairs of donated boots made for some very happy feet 💗
Today, after sifting through our closets for some clothing, we drove down to give out what else we could. Bitterly cold at 10 degrees, the weather had driven most people inside at Purple East but they came out when they saw our car.
The Samaritas group was there doing their very popular hot dog thing but there's always room for food to go. Purple East has recently changed its "no food inside" policy which was such great news. People no longer have to stay outside in order to eat the food they've been given.
Here's Tommy, a very old friend,
and Thomas, who will always break into song for you.
This gentleman wanted the most colorful scarf we had and we were happy to oblige.
After about 40 minutes, people had taken what they wanted/needed and we gave the rest away driving around town. Being so cold, there were not a lot of people on the street and we were so happy to see that. One man told us that Purple East was full up last night and had to turn him away. Thankfully, he had found a friend with whom he could stay the night. We still have snack bags and toiletry kits to give out, and a few lunches, along with other cold weather gear so we'll make as many trips as we can this week, especially due to this cold spell.
We can leave and go to our warm home any time we want. But we think of those that content themselves with a warm vent. These two were given food and hand-warmers, but at the end of the day we are home and they are there.

Because of our generous donors, we had more goods to give away and made a mid-week trip to Heartside Park.
Food, toiletries, and clothing all went.
This couple so appreciated the food and toiletries. They had just enough money for a cab and one night's stay in a hotel. They wanted to get away from the chaos of the shelter, even if for one night.
We ran into Jamie again, my old co-worker who helped us hand out gloves when a lady across the street was yelling at me to come over there 😊
To be able to make people happy by handing them a new pair of boots or a tent to stay in is a wonderful thing.

Our Saturday prep work took place outside of the Community Church in Ada on a balmy, 28 degree day. 😊
Over 100 sandwiches/lunches were put together and 100 toiletry kits were assembled. Guiding Light donated much of the food, along with some winter coats and gloves, and The Community Church covered the costs of the purchased food. Community members have made up the Saturday volunteers each week, and members and friends of members continue to generously donate toiletries and other goods. 
When we reached Heartside Park today, we saw small groups of people walking around handing out red bags. Apparently, Faith Church of Grand Rapids had organized a donation event and were distributing the goods today after their church service. We saw red bags and loaves of bread everywhere.
But even with this surfeit of goods, people still wanted lunches and toiletries. We also gave away a dozen pairs of gloves, multiple hats, scarves, socks, handwarmers and some winter coats.
We met some new friends, Lee & Sarah.
And we saw some old friends: Bennie, Steady, and Tony, to picture just a few.
Driving around, we gave away most of the rest of what we had left in the car.
The church keeping their steps cleared:
Thank you to everyone who continues to donate time, money, and goods every week for our Heartside neighbors!

Due to space constraints of the car last Sunday, we had a refrigerator full of snack packs to hand out so we drove downtown today to give them away. And we had a blast 😊 
Julie & David
A Group Meetup
While driving around, we found the woman we had given a pair of boots to last Sunday. She still had them on and was sitting in the wheel chair of Phong, a man who I've only seen without his chair once before. He said she needed it. 💗
Lastly, running into Mario & KayKay made my day. It's been about a year since I've seen either one of them. It was a great afternoon.

Earlier in the week we picked up a huge food donation from Guiding Light for our weekly lunches for the Heartside neighborhood. Thank you, Guiding Light!
Included in this donation were two boxes of frozen cookies and we found willing bakers!
With most of cost of the lunch food covered we were able to put together large snack bags along with the lunches. One hundred of each were put together on Saturday by these volunteers (one of whom found a 'Michigan' slice of meat 😊)!
With the car so full, we headed right downtown after lunch assembly to giveaway some of the food.
Here's Jose.
People waving from inside Purple East.
And I spotted one of my favorite ex-coworkers in the park - bonus!
So today, with some room in the car freed up, we packed up with a little of everything.
The park was pretty empty on this snowy day but there's always a crowd in front of Purple East and word travels quickly. No fires were burning today. 
The food went fast.
We like to have with us anything (other than money) that people ask us for so we now carry a few bus tickets and bought some Degage vouchers. We were also able to help some people out with hoodies, coats, a pair of boots, snow pants, hats, scarves, gloves, socks, and hand warmers, along with about 50 toiletry kits.
Our last road before heading home is always Monroe Center. Fitz and Gary were there and we wished we had more left to give them so maybe Monroe Center will be our first stop next week.
For many (especially when the tents were there), this park is an eyesore. But for many others it truly is an oasis in the city.
(Thanks again to Guiding Light, The Community Church in Ada, and volunteers from The Community for all of the support in making this happen each week.)

Having some goods that we couldn't fit in the car last Sunday we took a ride downtown today. It was a really cold day and we also wanted to find Ryan who was panhandling Sunday for a pair of boots. We now had the boots but couldn't find Ryan.
Very few people were at Heartside Park or in front of Purple East. Those we found appreciated the snack bags, a sleeping bag, and toiletry kits. We finished our ride down South Division, checking with people at bus stops, and then called it good for the day.
Harley & Ashley

The fires were burning in the park (although the grills have apparently been removed) and people were milling about there and across the street in front of Purple East (people can't bring food into Purple East which makes for a bit of a mess out there).
We brought 100+ snack bags and a solid 50 toiletry kits with us today.
Our Saturday prep ~ 
20 minutes of this to 100 of that.
And another 30 minutes to assemble 50 toiletry kits.
Both kits were well received and appreciated.
Roy and Harley are becoming old friends.
After about 30 minutes, everyone who noticed us had come over to the car for what they needed so I went to bring some snacks to the folks under the gazebo keeping warm by the fire. And there I ran into one of my very old friends, Heather.💗
I left some snack bags with them and walked on through the park.
Running into Amber, I asked her if she needed anything and suggested she step over to our car. She started to laugh and said it was the first time in this city that she agreed to go over to someone's car when asked. Good point 😏
Julie, Heather, and T also joined us back at the car.
Everyone at the park and in the vicinity who wanted food, water, toiletries, socks, gloves, hats, scarves, or hand-warmers received them so it was time for us to move on.
We drove south on Division Street, up Monroe Center, south on Sheldon, and distributed as we went.
There were a few people waiting outside Degage, including Willie & Richard (it opens at 2pm).
This church has cleared the mini-homeless settlement from its steps. This gentleman was just fixing his backpack and was happy for the food and toiletries.
Another old, and creative, friend was found near Pekich Park 😊
And our new friend, Ryan, needs a pair of sized 10 1/2 boots (we had a few requests for men's boots).
Two major positive changes occurred for us this week, the first being obtaining financial support from The Community Church in Ada who has funded our food expenses through the end of March. And the other was receiving a considerable amount of donated goods from Guiding Light Works in Grand Rapids of the items we give out each week. We are so appreciative to both of these non-profit organizations. We are also very thankful for the personal donations of goods and money from both friends and strangers that all help to show the homeless and/or disenfranchised people how valued they are and that we see them.
Lucas, aka Skywalker 💗 

Seeing that everyone asked for food last week, we concocted a plan with some friends to make ham & cheese sandwiches on Saturday and see what the time and cost would come out to be and also how they would be received. So two people shopped for 1 hour and six people spent 1 hour assembling the lunches, and 100 sandwich sack lunches were made.
Our church kindly let us store the sandwiches overnight in the church refrigerator.
With the SUV loaded this morning, we headed downtown.
When we pulled up to Heartside Park we were somewhat dismayed to see that there was a group already here serving food (last week, no food; this week, so much food). But we got out to see what was happening and realized it was our old friends from City Impact Church in Cedar Springs whom we had met a month ago. They generously told us they would share one of their tables with us and that their pizzas were almost gone, and they helped us unload the car.
So we brought some sandwiches & condiments over and being that there was no nearby parking available, Roy stayed in the street with the car and opened the back for the rest of our give-aways. Besides the snack bags & sandwiches, we gave away a small mountain of socks, hats, gloves, hand & toe warmers, toiletry kits, toilet paper, and bus passes.
You can't miss Ramone. He's the one with this hat 😀
Susan remembered me from my time at Heartside Ministry and started crying about the time I was forced to leave and she was tasked with taking all of my photographs of Heartside folks off my office walls. It was a super sweet moment. (I was hired back later under new management, fyi.)
(Here is a photo of that office from some years ago.)
Susan gave me and Michele (from City Impact Church) a tour of Purple East (the Mel Trotter warming center - all the Heartside people still call it Purple East). We heard more stories around the fire.
I love that someone who is homeless is hanging on to his/her keyboard.
We decided it was time to move on and we collected what sandwiches were left from City Impact's table. Driving down Cherry, Sheldon, Division, and Monroe Center we found takers for the rest of them. This man is living down by the river but is helping out these folks.
We called an ambulance for a fellow down on South Division but he picked himself up and moved along. This fellow, however, wasn't moving.
These two men are grateful to the store owner that they are allowed to stay here overnight, and we are grateful that we get the pleasure of meeting and getting to know people who are so frequently shunned.
So, apparently there cannot be too much food and water but now that we know City Impact Church is here the second Sunday of every month we will plan accordingly.
The sandwiches were a hit and next week we will provide 100+ snack bags along with the usual suspects.

Today felt completely different than the past three weeks ~ fewer people, no one serving food, and snow on the ground. We pulled up to Heartside Park and waved this group of people over to see if we had anything they could use.
Once people in the park saw we were there with some goods, many came over to see what we were giving away. And today, everyone asked for food. Thankfully we had these donated snack bags with us and they were gone in minutes, along with most of the toiletry kits.
The man who took the last snack bag heard a man ask us for food and told him he'd share the bag with him. That should tell you everything you need to know about Heartside folks.
Other things we were able to assist people with were gloves, hats, scarves, socks, and hand-warmers ~ and toilet paper.
We couldn't navigate the cooler in the snow and most people came to us when they saw the crowd of people. But there are always some that prefer you come to them. And I'm fine with that 😊.
As I made my way through the park, I came across this plaque to Verne Barry. Some of us were lucky enough to know the man.
Before we left the park, I ran into one of my very favorite people, James. He's on the street but doing well.
With everyone at the park addressed, we drove around a little looking for people. We found these ladies waiting to get into Degage who appreciated the toiletry kits.
We stopped to see Phil and Charles and stocked them up with a few things. One of them asked for a backpack, and since we did not find our backpack requesters from last week, they each took one, after a thorough investigation of the options.
Our last stop was to visit with Annie and Charles and we gave them what we could.
For next week, we are looking for shampoo, lotion, and deodorant, three things we are completely out of for the toiletry kits. Also, with Christmas over, donors tend to disappear and we'd like to organize perhaps a monthly meal to provide at Heartside Park (more to plan and work out yet). Otherwise, snack packs would be welcome. They made so many people very happy today. Other requests were boots and backpacks.
Also important to remember is that just because Tent City was removed does not mean that people are all happily residing in shelters. They're still out there (1st photo from a few weeks ago, the 2nd photo from today).
Until next week...


One of the first people we saw today was Christa, whom I have known for many years through the Heartside Ministry art studio. When she saw my husband, Roy, getting more supplies from the car she expressed surprise that I was married because she always thought I was a spinster ~ haha ~ I haven't heard that word in years.
From this week's and last week's generous donations, we were able to put together about 30 personal care kits that we gave away today. And we could have given away double that.
Besides the kits, we had scarves and additional socks and hand warmers available for those that wanted just those.
There was more evidence of clothing and food dumping going on in the park (that's Roy with the cooler transporting the personal care kits).
A few signs of habitation were visible but mostly people have moved on.
These two need gloves and backpacks and we promised we'd be back next week.
Karen and Earl have a new tent site and gave us directions so that we could visit them.
And the chair from last week I thought would be abandoned or thrown out was here at the fire today.
Everyone was socializing and trying to stay warm.
A group from Samaritas was serving up hotdogs, not dumping them on a table and taking off.
The park was cleared of tents in a not so Christmas spirit and the new tent locations are less visible (and not in a park) to the general public so this time they should be safe.
It's a joy visiting with and getting to know different Heartside people every week. We are looking for more toiletries (shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, lotion, razors, deodorant) and always socks, hand & toe warmers, and gloves for next week's visit.
Cheers for these good folks and thank you to those donating!

The city came through yesterday and removed the tents and other things that were still in the park. But there were a few tents still standing today. Perhaps they received some special, but temporary, dispensation.
A man on the other side of these things was going through them looking for anything useful to him.
Otherwise, the park was cleared.

Local news announced that all tents need to be removed by Monday afternoon or the tents would be disposed of so we were wondering what we would find today. The tents are all still there but there are definite signs of people packing up. There are also signs of donors dumping clothing willy nilly, all of which will probably end up in a dumpster. Homeless people can only carry so much with them so if you can't hand your donated clothing to someone who wants it, you are better off donating the clothing to a local charity...but I digress.
A group was there serving up food, and there were signs of leftover food strewn throughout the park. With the tent city getting so much publicity, Grand Rapidians have apparently come out in force to donate, which says a lot about our city.
The handful of people we did get to talk to were packing up and had new tent sites already picked out. This couple said there was a group of people coming later with a U-Haul to help them move. Such generosity and thoughtfulness!
Firewood and propane tanks were welcome donations. We saw a family come by with a wagon full of propane tanks to give away.
Christmas cheer still abides and one man expressed his wish to spend Christmas in the park with his tent community. I don't think that's going to happen but that is his goal.
The community down at the end of the park was starting to pack up ~ they have too much to lose if their tents & goods get removed ~ and this man needed more duct tape for his tarps (added to our list).
There will be a lot of things left behind by necessity but I hope that people have enough time and the wherewithal to save those items most important to them for their daily living and survival.
We handed out socks, scarves, hand and toe warmers and wished people the best. But my favorite part of today was running into people I knew. It brought joy to my heart. We'll be back soon (next Sunday with personal care products, socks, etc.), and thank you to news organizations who continue to shine a light on the homeless.

We drove by and Tent City is still there with a give-away booth set up.

We read about the homeless camp sprouting up and growing at Heartside Park, which is unusual. Most homeless camps are hidden away from the general population but this year is different, due to Covid and its subsequent indoor restrictions. For now, the tents have been allowed to stay but this week, they will be removed. Mel Trotter shelter is opening an overflow space for men across the street from the park and after that, any remaining tents will be removed. Women will no doubt find another place to set up their tents, as will the men who cannot tolerate homeless shelters. (Update: there will be room on the second floor for some women, number unknown.) But not everyone is able to make use of overnight shelters due to his/her mental state, inability to abide by shelter rules, or just fear of being in a confined space and/or covid.
We decided to stop by today with dozens of hand and foot warmers and two cases of water (thanks also to a couple of friends who donated to today's venture).
The park with packed with people, both homeless and others who were lending a helping hand. As it turned out, today was the day City Impact Church from Cedar Springs was there in force doling out goods and mingling with people. We had a nice chat with Chris and Mike who said they usually organize a large church give-away once a month.
Other people were delivering dozens of pizzas - we never did catch the brand or where they were from, but everyone was eating pizza. Everyone's day was made better by the donations but they are all just band-aids on the large wound of homelessness.

We are saddened by the upcoming break-up of these communities because that is what they are. Many of the 40 plus tents are grouped together and people survive with help from each other. One man accepted our remaining hand-warmers that he will share with his 12-person group. We hope they all will have sufficient notice of the tent removal process so they don't lose all of their worldly possessions. 
Some will move on much easier than others as they have little to pack.
Our expectation is that most of these folks will find a new outdoor place to gather and live, less visible than in Heartside Park, because they want to stay with their community and be outdoors.
There's not one easy solution to homelessness but for us, we can and will continue to seek out our brothers and sisters to provide what band-aids we can and to acknowledge and value them as human beings, not garbage that needs to be hidden or thrown away. We've been so isolated, removed from everyone and everything, and turned in upon ourselves this year that we feel this is something we can and should do to make a small difference. 

So next Sunday we'll be back ~ this time with socks. This camp will probably be gone but there are homeless people and camps found throughout our downtown area so we'll find them where they are. And we will get to meet people like Chad who set up a Christmas tree at this camp (and gave us permission for the photo and use of his name).
Merry Christmas to all and remember the words of Ebenezer Scrooge: "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" And then: "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."
God bless us, everyone.

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