It’s the season for company holiday parties, and on Monday, Main Street Cafe, located at 10 West Main in downtown Ardmore, closed its doors to hold a celebration of its own.
The guest list for the cafe’s ‘Winter Ball Christmas Party,’ included more than just staff members, however. Individuals experiencing homelessness were invited to the restaurant to share in a meal and pick up a ‘blessing bag,’ containing a weeks worth of food and snacks.
“In the blessing bags we have Cheetos, we have crackers, we have chips, we have popcorn, we have pretzels, snickers, M&Ms— you name it, it’s in the bag to get them through this week,” said Terrell Fuller, a staff member at Main Street Cafe.
As the individuals funneled into the restaurant they paused to say “God bless you” and “Merry Christmas” to Fuller and other volunteers.
“That’s our goal— to be a true blessing to these people this Christmas season,” Fuller said. However, that goal also extends beyond the holiday season. Around three or four people will come in each week for leftovers, he said.
“Some of the homeless people that come through here, we feed them for no charge or anything like that,” Fuller said. “We enjoy just being a blessing to them.”
Word of mouth through the Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma, the local soup kitchen and social media helped draw in several homeless individuals for the party on Monday; and subsequently drew in many donations and volunteers -- some all the way from Dallas.
“Everyone has been a tremendous blessing because the homeless population is growing, but if we can help them get stable and get jobs and come out of this, we’ve accomplished something,” Fuller said. “Not just feeding them.”
Tanya Newton, a volunteer at the party, said she regularly helps provide services for homeless veterans through the Ki Bois Community Action Foundation. Her hope Monday was to be able to reach some of the individuals who may need services in the area.
Homeless veterans can especially be difficult to locate in rural areas and often are unaware of the programs offered through the Veteran’s Association and other organizations, Newton said.
“It’s more troublesome trying to find and locate the veterans that are homeless,” Newton said. “From what I come across, there’s a lot of veterans that have mental health problems, and stuff like that with PTSD, just not reaching out and getting the resources that they’re able to get.”
For many homeless individuals, just having a place to warm up for a few hours is a blessing, Newton said.
Fuller said he plans to continue to work with the Grace Center and other local organizations to make sure that the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness are met and to help them get back on their feet.
“My philosophy is: you never know whenever you’re going to be in the same predicament as these other people,” Fuller said. “I look at them as human beings just like us and I believe they are us. They may not have everything that we have, but at the end of the day they’re human just like us and we should really respect them and help them out whenever we see them needing help.”