Opening Words from Sun. November 1 by Melissa Johnson

Good morning.

My name is Melissa Johnson and my family and I have been coming to the Ethical Society for a little over a year, becoming members last spring.

We’ve been exposed to many great things here; one of those I’d like to talk about today and that is a heroic organization called St. Louis Homeless Winter Outreach. For those of you not aware, St. Louis Homeless Winter Outreach is an organization of hundreds of volunteers and a network of shelters whose core mission is protecting the lives and dignity of individuals who are homeless.

Winter Outreach consists of a number of teams working together to address the problem of homelessness in St. Louis. This includes: running an all winter shelter, partnering with other shelters and shuttling people to those shelters, and brainstorming, strategizing and executing both short-term and long-term solutions to ending homelessness. Additionally, the outreach team activates on nights when the temperature is predicted to be less than 20 degrees. Volunteers meet at Mokabe’s Coffeehouse at South Grand and Arsenal at 6pm. Experienced volunteers are paired with newcomers and go out into identified places in the community where they know homeless people stay. Their goal is to address immediate emergency needs and take people to shelters. If they will not go, volunteers give them items like blankets, hats, socks, and food. Winter Outreach also has a team dedicated to feeding the homeless. Last winter, they prepared over 1650 meals for their emergency shelter s and that number is expected to increase this year.

Thanks to efforts by members here at the Ethical Society, there a number of ways we can help this organization. Alan Easton will again be spearheading the effort to collect blankets and socks for Winter Outreach. He’ll have blue donations bins set up downstairs sometime in December.

Last winter, Andy Semler organized a group that took advantage of our wonderful kitchen downstairs and together we made soup, cornbread, sandwiches, and bags of snack mix for the WO food crew. I am hoping to organize a similar group this year, so if you like to cook and would like to help this organization, be on the lookout for information on this in the coming weeks.

The Ethical Navigators have also been working hard to support Winter Outreach. You may have seen notices for the past several weeks that we have been collecting items to assemble into bags of goodies for the Winter Outreach team to distribute to those individuals that choose not to go to shelters. Thanks to you and the efforts of our Navigators, we’ve collected enough items to assemble more than 100 bags for the winter outreach team to distribute. Our goal is to have 2 sweet snacks, 2 salty snacks, including a protein, if possible, along with a pack of tissues, lip balm and a few cough drops in each bag. The Navigators will be assembling many of these bags next week and we will also partner with Kate and assemble bags here at the Society during our Thanksgiving activities in a few weeks. If you’d like to donate to this cause, we could still use some proteins such as individual size tuna or chicken cups, some salty snacks like pretzels or sun chips, and personal items like tissues and lip balm. Small bottles of water or juice boxes can also be used. We will keep our collection bin downstairs by the entry doors for a couple more weeks just in case anyone still wants to help. Again, we are so thankful to all of you that have donated and look forward to working with any of you that want to help out this organization later in the month.

If you’d like to make a monetary donation, Winter Outreach can now accept donations online at stlwinteroutreach.org. Our split collection next week will also benefit this wonderful organization.

For more information on volunteering directly with St. Louis Homeless Winter Outreach, please visit their website at stlwinteroutreach.org. Together we can help our neighbors and help change the face of homelessness in the St. Louis area.

Thank you.