DANVILLE — A local group hopes to raise awareness about the area’s homelessness issue and, at the same time, feed those who are hungry a hot nutritious meal.
The group behind the meal is the Vermilion County Continuum of Care, which includes the City of Danville, Crosspoint at the Y, East Central Illinois Community Action Agency, Goodwill, Housing Authority of the City of Danville, Rosecrance, Salvation Army, The Dwelling Place, United Way of Danville Area, Your Family Resource Connection, Vermilion County Regional Office of Education and Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System.
The Continuum of Care meets every other month and conducts the annual street sweep in January to locate and count unsheltered homeless individuals and families.
The lunch is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the gym at Crosspoint at the Y, 201 N. Hazel St. Everyone is welcome. The meal will consist of soup and a sandwich, beverage and a dessert. Free personal care packages also will be available.
Tricia Keith, Vermilion County truant officer and homeless coordinator, said the meal has been an annual event for four or five years after first starting out at the Danville Salvation Army.
“The purpose of the meal is to get the message out that November is Homeless Awareness month and also to help feed anyone who is hungry,” Keith said.
“It’s a nice warm environment, or they can take it to go with them,” she said of the meal.
The meal has become a community affair, with local businesses, churches and schools donating items and volunteering their time.
“We have a lot of individuals who are private who come in and help us,” Linda McLaughlin, program coordinator at Crosspoint at the Y, said. “We’ve really been blessed. It’s the community that helps us; otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do this.
“All the donations that come in from small churches and individuals; it’s really humbling,” she added.
Jocko’s Pizza Inn will donate the soup, bread and tea; Mary Lewis plans to cook chili; Vermilion Produce will provide fresh fruit; Genpact will donate grab-and-go snacks; Danville Paper & Supply will donate the paper goods; and various agencies and churches will make desserts.
In addition, members of Batestown United Methodist Church and Salt Fork High School’s National Honor Society will donate their time by volunteering.
“They help us set up and clean up,” Keith said.
Donations still are being sought leading up to the event. Keith suggested bottled water, juice boxes, toiletries, coats, hats and gloves as items that could be donated.
In past years, the lunch has drawn as many as 70 to 150 people, but Keith noted that an unusually high number of children came to last year’s event for a hot meal.
“Last year we saw more kids than we’ve ever seen before,” she said.
One reason, Keith speculated, was because “families have fallen on hard times, and this was the only hot meal they were going to have that day.
“We wish we could do this every day,” she said of the event. “It also helps us to pair them up with the resources they need.”
To reach the people who really need the meal and the support and to assist them in getting to Crosspoint at the Y, the event has been promoted at social service agencies and, like last year, Danville Mass Transit tickets will be given away.
“Last year, we handed out bus tickets so they knew they had a ride there and to wherever they needed to go,” Keith said.
“We want everyone to arrive and feel respected and leave with a warm heart,” she said.
McLaughlin agreed. “It’s one of mine and Tricia’s favorite events,” she said. “It makes you feel so good when people come up to us and thank us.”
The Vermilion County Continuum of Care will serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at Crosspoint at the Y, 201 N. Hazel St. Everyone is welcome.
Donations of bottled water, juice boxes, toiletries, coats, hats and gloves are still being sought for the event and may be dropped off at the Vermilion County Regional Office of Education, 200 College St.