I had the pleasure of helping Erin Victor with the very first Akron Snow Angels mission. I wasn’t sure what to expect, in fact, none of us did, but what has stemmed from that very first Sunday passing out warm clothes to those in need has spread so much love and hope throughout our community.
On Sunday, February 1, 2015, 5 of us ventured into the cold. It snowed 5 inches that day. We set out with hats, gloves, scarves and jackets unsure where to go. After heading downtown, tying scarves and hats to trees, we ended up at Haven of Rest where we met numerous homeless men and women.
The first person I met was a young girl by the name of Sheila. After searching through the items, she came across a penguin themed outfit. Who knew that she LOVED penguins? I remembered seeing a penguin hat earlier in one of the bags, so I dug through and found it for her. She was so excited and thankful. I watched her for a minute as the other women asked for one or two items that they were in desperate need of. As Sheila was looking around in awe, she turned to me and said, “Thank you so much for doing this. Can I hug you?” Her hug brought me to tears.
After we helped the women, we ventured over to the men’s side where we were able to hand out countless jackets, gloves, hats, and sweaters, just to name a few items. I stood back and watched as Erin physically placed items of warm clothing on a man in need. He had no hat, no jacket, no gloves, and no scarf. By the time he left, he was nice and warm, and overly thankful.
These men and women were so grateful for our offerings, thanking us over and over again. They weren’t greedy or rude, as they asked for only one or two items, being very specific.
This past Sunday, February 22nd, we ventured to North Hill and Grace Park (next to Haven of Rest). We heard from Joe, a Cuyahoga Falls resident, while we were in the parking lot of Redeemer Methodist Church of North Hill. He told us his story and graciously asked for a jacket for his son who is in need.
Our trip to Grace Park was nothing short of amazing. We had about 10 cars parked in a line, popped our trunks, and waited for folks from Haven of Rest to join us. There were some familiar faces and some new ones as well. We passed out warm clothing, coffee, and muffins to our friends. I engaged in a conversation with a man named Michael who was telling me how thankful he is for our group. He was wearing a jacket he received from us 3 weeks ago and told me as he stands in line outside the Haven before dinner or walks to work he thanks us over and over again in his mind. We were talking for a while and I remembered there was a pair of Carhartt overalls in one of the bags that I thought he would benefit from. I dug through the bag and pulled out the overalls. He immediately looked up to the sky and thanked God, then proceeded to give me the biggest bear hug I’ve ever received in my life. He said he has been praying for a piece of clothing exactly like that so he can stay warm during his walk to work. That was an amazing experience. Michael and I shared a great conversation that I will never forget.
We walked back up to the front and I noticed Sheila walking up with a friend and talking to Erin. She wasn’t wearing her penguin hat, so I asked her where it was. She said she curled her hair and didn’t want it getting messed up for the day, but she still has it and loves it. Then she showed me how her friend did her makeup and we continued to chat for a few minutes. It was great seeing her again and getting to see how proud she was to show us her hair and makeup.
The part that really hit home for me so far was driving by the Haven of Rest last Friday and seeing Sheila standing outside with her penguin hat and another woman wearing the boots we gave her. I saw Sheila again today wearing the hat.
Everyone comes from different backgrounds, we can’t forget that. Not all of us have had it easy or been given things in our life. Some of us make poor decisions, but are learning from them. It is our job as humans to take care of each other, whether it’s giving someone a compliment, saying hello with a smile, opening a door for someone, or putting a scarf on someone in need. This experience has truly been eye opening and the connections I’ve made with these individuals are priceless. I can’t wait to see how many lives this organization touches. It’s becoming more than just keeping them warm, it’s about spreading love and hope to your fellow human.