Youths in Seminole reach out to homeless neighbors
Youth of Seminole-First Church offer free winter supplies, including sleeping bags and food, to neighbors in need on Nov. 11.
SEMINOLE, Okla. — The youth of Seminole-First United Methodist Church were alarmed to realize some people in their town lived outside, in the cold, with nothing to eat.
In November, they responded by collecting food, coats, sleeping bags, and tents to give out to people in need in Seminole and the area. They are continuing that outreach.
“It bothered them that there were people that were homeless or were going without food,” said First UMC Youth Director Tracy Jacomo, who is a retired schoolteacher.
Ten to 15 youth, including Jacomo’s daughter Katie, have been helping with the project.
Pastor Mark Watson praised the youths’ efforts. “It is a great ministry and going well,” he noted in an email statement.
The Seminole American Legion allows the church’s Community Outreach Program to hand out the supplies at its armory. Distribution is on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month, Jacomo said. They hope that schedule benefits people whose government assistance funds run out before the month is over.
The group also gives out packages of toiletries as well as socks, hats, and gloves, and they maintain a clothing closet at the armory.
Church members have contributed items to stock the pantry and clothing closet, Jacomo said.
Unlike at some food pantries, a client is not required to show proof of a permanent address (such as an electric bill) to receive assistance. Jacomo said some recipients do live outdoors, while others are “couch surfing” at friends’ homes.
At each distribution, she has noticed new people come to get help.
“They’re from within our community,” she said. “There’s a lot of unemployment in our area.”
A recent point-in-time survey identified some 250 homeless people in the Seminole area.
In late December, Jacomo estimated 88 people had gotten assistance from the youths’ program since it started Nov. 11.
The food supplies they offer can be eaten as-is or heated up — with choices including potted meat and jerky, crackers, granola bars, shelf-stable milk, and canned fruit and vegetables. With the holidays in mind, the group also gave out items for a special meal, such as instant dressing and canned ham.