It was a Tuesday night in Reno NV, on the 13th week of this project, when I first met Elaine and Paul. They run a food pantry for veterans called Hands of Hope. I had looked at their website early that afternoon, and I was curious about the program. I noticed that their motto was “a hand UP, not a hand OUT” and that they charge a five dollar co-pay for the food they distribute. I thought this was strange and called the number listed on the website. When I got there, the program changed my life. I was so impressed with the LOVE that Elaine and Paul put into their program, and the way each and every veteran was treated with an immense amount of gratitude and respect. It brought tears to my eyes, watching Elaine load up shopping carts of food for families. I interviewed a woman who was leaving the program with over 200 dollars of FRESH groceries, (for which she paid only five dollars) and we cried and hugged each other. I interviewed Elaine and we both cried and laughed. I donated my canned goods from the daily food drive, and they took them, but only as back up. They serve fresh meat, vegetables, dairy, and bread. Real stuff, real food…. It’s amazing.
I was struck when I left, remembering that Elaine told me about having a donate button on their website for over a year and that no one has ever used it. I cringed, thinking about my friends who have hit my donate button more than once to keep this project going. I convinced Paul and Elaine to set up a Facebook page, and I promised to direct them some fans. When they got on Facebook a few weeks later, I sent 200 fans their way as fast as I could. I was so happy that they were going to use social media (partly because it makes it easier for me to keep up with them) that when I received a phone call that a good friend of mine from grade school had just donated to Project 50/50, I asked if it was okay that I pay half of it forward. In my heart I felt it was the right thing to do. I hit the donate button on Paul and Elaine’s website, and on the PayPal note, I wrote “because you love”. It was something God told me to do, with exactly this wording.
It’s strange how things work out. Months later, I had gotten on Twitter. I only signed up as a way to make notes and share thoughts. Yet, here I was on the 29th state of this Project in Cleveland Ohio, thousands of miles from Nevada and sitting on the shore of Lake Eerie, that I checked my twitter feed and noticed a newcomer in my followers. A man named Kerry, known as Alleycat, had contacted me. I read his bio and his tweets, and I realized that Kerry, his wife Sabrina, and their son are homeless. I started tweeting him, and he tweeted back. He was a veteran. I asked him where he was from, and he said he was in Nevada, in between Carson City and Reno.
I immediately started tweeting him about Hands of Hope. He said he had no way to get there. He explained that they had no gas, and no money for gas. I told him right then that I would see what I could do. I had no idea what I was thinking. He asked me to call his wife, so I did. She sounded distraught. She explained the severity of the situation. I made myself sound confident. As horrible as it was, I knew that taking the worry of food away was the first step, and often, if the ball starts rolling in a better direction, attitudes change. With a better attitude, the possibilities are endless. I pulled out my composition book, climbed up on a rock and watched the sunset over the lake.
I wrote “Trust God, and Love HIM with all of your heart, soul and mind. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Jesus said that these are the most important commandments. (Matthew 22) I believe that if I do this to the best of my abilities, failure is not possible. Period. Success means trying, even when it seems impossible. It seems impossible to help this family from this distance. But I will try. With Love in my heart and God on my side, I will try. This is much more complicated than socks or canned food to people I can physically see, but I will try. Give Love.”
I called Hands of Hope and left a message. This was a Monday night. That night I found wireless internet at a truck stop and sent Paul and Elaine a Facebook message, explaining the entirety of the situation, and giving them the address that Kerry had given me. I didn’t have any more money to give, and in my notebook I wrote “I have a plan in my head and no idea how it will all come together. But it will, somehow, I know.”
I prayed again, and called my mom. We figured that if God wanted it to work it would, and I went to sleep. The next day I thought about Kerry, Sabrina and their son all day. I thought about Paul and Elaine. I kept telling God that I trusted Him to figure it out. I found internet again in the early afternoon, and hooray! A message from Paul! He said that he would use the money I had donated at the beginning of the year, because he knows that was a huge gesture from me. I do live in a truck. He wasn’t going to ask for more. He also said that there is a man named Herb who comes into the food bank every Tuesday to volunteer, and drops off food for a couple of local families. He said that as it turns out, Herb lives right up the street from Kerry. I was relieved, and I tweeted Kerry to let him know. They posted pictures of the food they received on Facebook, and the next week I explained to Sabrina that the agreement with Hands of Hope was going to stretch for their family indefinitely. I see the snowball effect can work both ways, and in the last month, I’ve noticed that God is doing a few everyday miracles in the lives of Kerry and his family.
No one person or one organization is going to save anyone from poverty or homelessness. We might receive a hand “up” as Elaine says, but ultimately, we save ourselves. It is crucial that we actively participate in our salvation, and that starts with our attitude. I’ve lost everything, multiple times. That doesn’t mean I understand everyone’s life or situation. What it does mean is that I’ve learned that God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of sound mind. Love and Faith are always the right answers.
~Spread the LOVE~
An Update: This article was written as one of my journal entries on August 20th. Less than 2 months later, on October 17th, Kerry and Sabrina walked into their new house. God is so good.