There are so many ways to help the homeless and impoverished.

From hosting drives and events to volunteering to donating clothes and items you no longer wear or use, the possibilities to help are nearly endless.

A group of UNL students came to us recently and said they wanted to take a multifaceted approach to helping. They wanted to see just how the different aspects of helping impacted our guests (and ultimately, themselves).

They volunteered by serving lunch, preparing and distributing sack while riding on our Only251 Shuttle, and they held an Only251 food drive outside of an Omaha Wal-Mart.

Here’s their story:

Going into our community partnership, we really desired to help those who were undertaking the challenges of parenting on top of being without a home. As we reached out to organizations around the community, we found it very difficult to get their cooperation. With help from Michele Orth, we set up a booth outside of Wal-Mart and handed out grocery lists to shoppers in hopes they would throw one or two items in their cart while in the store, and donate it to us on their way out. Donations would go towards People’s City Mission sack lunch program as well as their $2.51 program. It was quiet during the first morning hours but later on, people started to take interest in what we were advocating for. We were able to take down a whole car trunk full of groceries piled to the top to the Mission that same day. We ended up reaching out in this way two of the weeks, and received donations for about 100 lunches each time. Additionally, we assisted other volunteers and residents at People’s City Mission prepare 115 sack lunches one morning, and 100 the next. After preparing lunches, we would ride the $2.51 bus and deliver lunches to individuals choosing to live on the streets. This was a unique experience to us, and brought about a new perspective towards Lincoln’s homeless population.

While volunteering at People’s City Mission, one of the most memorable events happened in the lobby. Waiting to sign-in, I noticed a young woman crying in one of the lobby chairs, being comforted by a staff member of the mission. In between sobs, the woman said to the staff member, “I can’t be homeless, I have children. What will we do?’ and How did I get here?” The staff member kept reassuring her that he would be getting her help here at the Mission. My assumption from her words and emotional responses was that they had maybe just gotten evicted or kicked out of a different living space. I was so saddened by this event. I couldn’t imagine the stress or hopelessness this mother was feeling. However, I knew she was at the right place, because the Mission would help her. This event reaffirmed the idea that our project could help individuals by gathering basic food items and spreading awareness about People’s City Mission.

Our time spent volunteering with People’s City Mission allowed us to volunteer outside of our comfort zone and engage members of the community in ways we wouldn’t have normally. Advocating for People’s City Mission rewarded us with newfound communication skills and an even greater respect for the volunteers and staff who help homeless individuals and families there daily. We recommend anyone who would like to make a difference in the lives of those suffering from homelessness visit People’s City Mission and help make a change.

Thank you, Rachel, Laura, and Arione! People like you – and the experiences you come away with – are what keeps the Mission running. We couldn’t do it without you!