A Tribute to Jim Boulet
The Homeless Outreach was started in 1986 by Linda Shuhy. In her own words:
I was attending a church in northwest DC and was shocked by what I saw. As I drove through the city I saw people searching through trash cans for food. In freezing temperatures I saw people without adequate clothing. Some had no coats, hats, shoes, or socks. People were sleeping on park benches and steam grates trying to prevent freezing.
I recognized the need, and as I prayed for these people, realized God's call on my life to help feed and clothe these people, as well as help other people with homes to realize the tremendous need, and be aware of ways they too are called to help "feed the hungry and clothe the naked".
The more involved I became, the more aware I was of the magnitude of the need. Four years ago the DC homeless statistics numbered about 8,000. Today we have over *10,000 homeless people in the DC area and most of these are children. The average age of a homeless person is six years old.
God blessed this work with homeless people from the beginning. Donations have been consistent even as the sources have varied. Encouragement, prayer support, and help with the work have been provided. The work has proven to be under God's guidance as He has provided all needs and turned would-be obstacles into blessings. We have seen the power, protection, and great love of God through ministering to homeless people.
As The Homeless Outreach grew, God brought more churches into the ministry. He also called more people to help with the organization within the churches. These workers are recognized as church coordinators.
The Homeless Outreach became incorporated on June 1, 1989. The incorporation papers were signed on May 25, 1989. In August 1989, the Internal Revenue Service granted The Homeless Outreach its 501(c)(3)status.
The Homeless Outreach continued under the directorship of Linda Shuhy until 1996. At that time Otis Moton assumed the directorship. Carol Leo was administrative support and children's event coordinator during this time. When Otis resigned in 1999, Carol Leo became the official director and has continued in that role for the last eight years. The current Board of Directors consists of Carol Leo, Bertha Fenwick, Charles Fenwick, and Ladd Hakes. Bertha and Charles Fenwick coordinate and handle the planning, purchasing and preparation of all meals served in our events throughout the year. Thousands of people have benefited from their loving and ample preparation of warm, home-cooked meals. Ladd Hakes is responsible for our tax paperwork.
A variety of churches, businesses and individuals support this ministry. Some of our most faithful supporters include Corkran United Methodist Church, Victory Chapel, National Church of God, and Evangel Assembly of God Church. We have been the recipient of State Farm's Good Neighbor's Grant for the last several years thanks to the efforts of Tara Lawton, a State Farm employee. We are also the beneficiaries of donations from Merito Corporation, thanks to Sharon Devlin, which help tremendously with the cost of bus rental. Several other institutions, churches, and individuals have been major contributors. Some of them are listed on our "Friends and Sponsors" page. One ongoing characteristic of this ministry has been the way that various churches go beyond denominational differences to pull together in love.
The Homeless Outreach has always focused on reaching out to men, women and children who are experiencing the plight of homelessness, but our emphasis has been on the children. The Lord has showed us how great the need is and He has reminded us that He has special care and concern for these "little ones."
Throughout the year we have a variety of outreach events. Certain events have become standard. Four of the big ones, to which we bus the shelter residents each year are an Easter event, a Summer Cookout, a Back-to-School Event and a Christmas Event. All of these events are for the benefit of five of the Washington Area family shelters: DC Village (SW Washington, DC), Families Forward (NW Washington, DC), Spring Road (NW Washington, DC), Community of Hope, (NW Washington, DC) and Shepherd's Cove (Seat Pleasant, MD). Although the settings vary, there are certain procedures that we follow with each event such as warm welcomes, name tags for everyone, family registration so that we can fill family bags with appropriate items, good warm meals, huge amounts of good-quality used or new clothing, prayer, Christian entertainment, the Gospel of salvation, and hope and encouragement.
Although faces vary from month to month, we always find that we are warmly received and that there is a wonderful opportunity to present the Gospel of Christ. Lives are not only temporarily touched by the provision of material goods, but are permanently changed by the love of Christ.
In addition to these four major events, which are described on the pages below, we also have an annual Thanksgiving meal usually for one large shelter or for three of the other shelters. We also have monthly workshops at Shepherd's Cove. In these hour-long presentations, we bring practical encouragement to the women, as well as arts and crafts and fun activities for the children. Our arts and crafts activities are equally popular with the adults.
In the winter, we have at least one blanket distribution, where we deliver warm woolen blankets, hot soup and tea to the homeless men and women who live and sleep outside on the streets of Washington, DC.
Each year, the Sunday before Easter, we hold a Resurrection Day Celebration. The "newness of life" is our theme and the Easter message of Christ's triumphant resurrection is preached in many different ways.
Easter grass and Easter eggs cover the tables. The children are divided into three age groups and are sent outside (weather permitting and I haven't seen the Lord fail us yet) with Easter baskets or bags to three different sections of the property, where candy and scripture-filled eggs await their discovery. The excitement of the children is very high and their faces shine with triumph as they come back in with containers full.
Sometimes our event includes Easter egg dying. We watch as the children experience the joy of creativity. The eggs look so good that some of the children can't wait to crack them open and eat them. An Easter dinner is served and everyone appreciates the food.
The Gospel is shared in song and in message. Easter is the perfect time to bring forth the message of Christ's death, burial and resurrection. It means so much to people who are in dire circumstances to experience the Father's love. Hallelujah!
In late June we have a cookout and picnic. It is usually held at Cosca Regional Park in Clinton, MD, although locations have varied throughout the years. This particular park consists of a large flat area that is full of fancy playground equipment. It is an ideal play area for children, and for the children from the shelters in particular who spend most of their lives cooped up in crowded inner-city environments.
While children head down the hill for the playground assisted by youth from the Harvest of Hope, parents (predominantly mothers) are content to sit at the picnic tables under the shade of the trees and enjoy the great outdoors through conversation with one another. Background music floods the air in the form a live band, Sons of Thunder, or through a CD mix played by Dennis Sydney, a Christian D.J.
Ministers with a passion to reach the hurting and the homeless such as Pat Kriner or Moses Rustin come with their teams and minister in preaching and song. In the midst of the warm and festive atmosphere, many individuals hear the Word of God and many come forward for prayer and to give their lives to Christ. The Gideons are also present, and wearing suits and ties and gracious smiles they mingle with the crowd, share their testimonies and hand out New Testaments to all who are desire to receive them.
Bertha and Charles Fenwick head up the grilling of the hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken, and with the help of a large team of volunteers feed the hungry crowd of several hundred.
It always turns out to be a deeply satisfying day for our guests and our volunteers. To God be the Glory!
In late August we feature Back-to-School events for children from our five area family shelters. Sometimes this is combined into one big event held at the NCOG gymnasium and other times we hold three separate events; one in downtown Washington, D.C. at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, one at the D.C. Village Shelter in SW D.C. and one at Shepherd's Cove Shelter in Seat Pleasant, MD.
All three of these events involve ministry through song, skit or puppet show, as well as preaching and prayer, service of a warm meal or snacks and distribution of new backpacks filled with school supplies. The backpacks are high quality and we are able to receive them for a very low price from G.A. Shaffer, Inc. The children's excitement is very high as they receive these treasures. Children who have very little materially can see a glimmer of hope as they realize they will be starting school with all the right equipment.
Our back-to-school parties are vessels through which the love of Christ can flow in a very tangible way. We rejoice as prayer is offered and many children and adults want to receive Christ into their hearts.
Our annual Christmas party occurs two Sundays before Christmas and is well attended by children and parents from the shelters. Up to seven buses are rented and sent out to bring in the hundreds of shelter residents. Our location has been the gymnasium of National Church of God in Fort Washington, MD for many years, although one year we used the cafeteria of Gwyn Park Middle School in Brandywine, MD.
Over the years teams from a variety of local churches have participated. There have been anointed dancers, singers, puppeteers and actors from Victory Chapel, (Accokeek, MD), NCOG, (Fort Washington, MD), Evangel Assembly of God, (Temple Hills, MD), Faith Assembly of God, (Lothian, MD), Solid Rock Church, Lanham, MD, as well as independent teams such as Sons of Thunder and Refuge, Saints-n-Praise, Remi & Butterfly the clowns, and the Master's Commission. Whatever groups come to minister, the mood is festive, Christmas music and good cheer permeates the room and the love of Christ is much in evidence. The Word of God always brings hope, direction and inspiration as it is preached.
We always serve a big Christmas banquet with turkey and all the trimmings through the efforts of Bertha and Charles Fenwick, as well as a local caterer Rowena Freeman who has joined us in this past year.
Wrapped Christmas gifts that have been donated from a variety of sources are handed out to the children as they are dismissed in their various age groups. Corkran United Methodist Church, Victory Chapel, Merito Corporation, the Meyers family, Christ Fellowship and the Air Force Honor Guard, as well as many independent individual givers are the source for these many special gifts. This past year PerotSystems, Inc. were the donors of a very generous gift.
For many years the Air Force Honor Guard, through its Christmas Cheer program, has not only donated hundreds of new toys but has been present at our parties to mingle with guests and to help distribute the gifts.
Family bags that contain hats, gloves, socks, underwear, children's books, and hygiene articles are also handed out to each parent. Huge bags of gifts, as well as good used clothing accompany each family as they board the buses back to the shelters. Smiles and words of thanks adorn each face.
We give God the glory for allowing us to experience and to share true Christmas spirit in such a deeply meaningful way.