By: Lynn Lewis, Friendship Place Supporter and Volunteer
Perhaps it was the size 16 Docksiders, or the shiny cowboy boots, or the dozen extra large snow boots, many still bearing store tags, that captivated me. Or maybe it was the huge piles of parkas or the new sweats. These were among the many items at Friendship Place’s network of congregations third annual Winter Warmth Day, held on Saturday, Dec. 7, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at St. Luke’s Mission Center in Northwest DC.
As a first-time volunteer, I was struck by the generosity of many congregations and countless donors who brought bags and bags of clothing for men living with homelessness.
The night before the “store” opened, volunteers gathered to sort, fold and hang by item type and size all the clothing. Others set up the café, where close to five gallons of homemade soup, 10 loaves of homemade bread and cookies, hot beverages and breakfast food (including six dozen hard-boiled eggs, good protein that travels well and can be eaten later, with compliments from Saint Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral!) would be served the next morning.
On Saturday, Alex was first in a line of over 60 people that visited the store and were warmed by the food. Shoppers circled tables piled high with parkas, boots and running shoes, sweaters, shirts, pants, new long johns, wool socks, hats and gloves, scarves, and mountain of new, warm blankets, with thanks from Washington National Cathedral and their gift store, and more.
Each shopper chose carefully, modeling and getting opinions and high-fives from the others. The new blankets quickly became a hit…but it was those parkas and boots that flew out the door. Those, and 75 large, new Ikea bags donated by one of many angels.
James was my last customer at the checkout stand. A slight, jaunty man, five generations in the Metro area, we connected even as strangers. He wanted a woman’s advice about how he looked in a full-length, English tweed coat (terrific). We moved on to picking a suitable sweater. He proudly reported his Aunt Peachy had given him a sense of style. Suited up, he looked great. Grinning, he asked me to guess his age. “Late forties, early fifties,” I surmised. He grinned and slapped his knee: September 3, 1940…three days before my own birthday. We two Virgos got a good laugh and hugged goodbye.
By noon, both clothing tables and cupboard were bare. But I won’t forget jaunty James, or the privilege of working alongside the other volunteers, ages 6 to 70 plus, or the committed Friendship Place staff, who joined forces to help keep our more vulnerable neighbors warm when the whipping winds and sub-zero temperatures hit our town.
Special thanks to the Friendship Place Congregation Committee, St. Luke’s Mission Center and the many congregations, donors and volunteers who made Winter Warmth Day a success!