Adaline is 10. Last year she participated in the first Easter He Got Up event to serve the homeless in Orange, Seminole and Osceola Counties in Florida. She was so surprised that there were only 200 pairs of shoes available for the thousands of homeless who were served.
So she began her own effort—Shoe Share—to make sure there were shoes available for all who came to the 2017 He Got Up. Thousands of shoes met many needs today—Adaline provided 3700 of them herself.
Homelessness increased drastically in Central Florida in recent years, catapulting the area to #1 in the nation for chronic homelessness. Combined efforts have made great progress in reducing the number—especially in providing homes for veterans.
But it is still unacceptable that many families (and their pets), children, professionals, the mentally ill, released felons, the unemployed or underemployed are still on the streets, in cars, in shelters, and in other inadequate housing.
He Got Up—celebrating the fact that Jesus Got Up on Resurrection Sunday—is a combined effort of cities and counties, businesses, civic services, and churches and ministries to serve the area’s thousands of homeless.
Homeless from all three counties were invited and encouraged to come. And they did—arriving by bus and van from more than 50 pick-up points and greeted by volunteers.
The day (Palm Sunday this year) began with a church service at one end of the Camping World Stadium venue, attended by several thousand. The guests then spread out to the many services provided:
Personal services included clothing, shoes, food, showers, haircuts and kids’ play areas for the guests and the volunteers.
Professional services included legal, medical, social, educational and employment. Anna was walking toward us with joy splashing all around so we stopped her to talk. She told us all about the various medical and dental services
My friend Bobby Hegedish and I share a heart for the homeless and were thrilled to see so many people—individuals, families, children, disabled—thronging to each center. Even more we loved the conversations we had.
Betty was working at Camping World Stadium during the event, but she had many needs herself. Recently moved to Florida from Puerto Rico, she felt her English was inadequate and a teaching job she had was too far from her home. We talked with her for more than 10 minutes, hopefully encouraged her and prayed for the right job to open up for her.
But the last was the best. As Bobby and I were heading to the parking lot, we passed a lone man sitting on a bench. We swung back to introduce ourselves and perhaps hear his story. His response to “how are you?” was immediate: “I am so blessed.” His name is Elmanuel. Certainly God is with him.
He had recently gotten out of prison, was homeless but hoping to move to the Salvation Army center. Today he had showered, gotten a haircut, found a shirt, some work pants, a pair of shoes and a job!! The pants were a little big and he hadn’t found a belt. So Bobby pulled his off and gave it to him.
The job is a good one and he can hardly wait to start working. We prayed for success in his job, and the future he believes God has for him. And we gave him a ride to his personal shelter.
I am still exhilarated. Seeing all parts of our community come together to meet such a desperate need was encouraging. Witnessing smiles on so many faces facing many obstacles was hopeful. Watching volunteers serving with joy was delightful.
For me, though, the greatest joy came from our conversations with Adaline, Betty and Elmanuel. I loved hearing stories, sometimes sharing a little of mine and hopefully giving an encouraging word and meaningful prayer.
What about you? How has your community encouraged you?
C2017 Judy Douglass