When people ask me about Legacy Shelters, I feel like a volcano erupting. I'm spewing out my heart & dreams for the community like word lava all over a person. Previous milestones & future plans are catapulting like hot rocks from my lips. The results of our endeavors fall wherever they may, undoubtedly making an impact & changing the world around them forevermore.
Usually, because I am so excited about what our future holds as an organization, other people can easily get excited, too. You see, when you're passionate about something, when you have the potential to change hundreds of lives, you could go on ranting about it for hours. Making plans, shaking hands, & perfecting & reassessing our goals is my LIFE right now. We are more focused than ever because, even as I write this, the stakes are getting too high.
Homelessness is growing across the nation. So is the inability to afford housing or a "decent" living. In fact, CALIFORNIA IS THE LEAST AFFORDABLE PLACE TO LIVE IN THE NATION with only 22 units for every 100 severely low income persons. That's 88/100 people living in poverty with few (if any) options! Even in our own [Riverside] county, there remain thousands of unsheltered people every night - THOUSANDS! There are hundreds in the City of Riverside alone.
Yet, in this vast world that is plagued with so many factors beyond our control, Legacy Shelters has a place. Together, we can make a difference. I would say that's something to get excited about!
A City On a Hill
Over the last year we have done everything possible to fortify our position as an organization that is here to stay. We knew that the most influential people in this industry would be asking detailed questions & expecting well-thought out responses, otherwise we would not be taken seriously. We filed for our 501c3, business license, tax exempt status - you name it! As the ball started rolling with all of our foundational processes in line, we began using our resources to meet the needs of our community wherever we could.
We would hear about families that needed groceries, outreach teams who were collecting specific items for community drives, & people that just did not have the tools to get ahead. We even met a pastor who said that after 20 YEARS of outreach, the problem with homelessness & drug abuse in his neighborhood was getting worse. That's when we stepped in. I realized that we have access to food pantries willing to donate food to families. We were also already collecting toiletries, clothing, & other miscellaneous items for outreach & donations. And, probably our greatest asset that we are constantly replenishing is our volunteer team. We have almost 50 individuals who on a regular basis are willing & able to evangelize, perform community beautification projects, & join in on the fight against homelessness with their own resources & time.
As the Lord keeps highlighting our organization with each event, one fact that is becoming more evident is this: We ARE a city on a hill & cannot be hidden. We change atmospheres when we walk into a room because God's presence goes before us. We are spotlighted because the Light of Christ beams from within. It's not that we are doing anything supernatural. We are SERVING our community. We are LOVING on our brothers & sisters. We are taking the time to PRAY & CONVERSE with people instead of ignoring them & then blaming the city, the government, or whomever for not doing more.
WE CAN DO MORE! This call was no different the weekend we volunteered at the 5th Annual Walk to End Homelessness.
Missions Filled Weekend
After weeks of planning, I met ten bright-eyed students at the downstairs lobby of the Riverside Marriott at 5:30 AM. They were visiting from Bethel Church in Redding, CA for a missions field trip, & my job was to keep them busy. I had visited Bethel just a few weeks prior to this event, so some of the faces were warm & familiar. We had JUST found out the week before what our duties as volunteers would be, so I imagine that the students were just as curious as I was to discover what the day would entail. It was also our first time ever participating in the annual event, so none of us really had any idea what we were getting into. Nonetheless, we jumped right in.
When we arrived at Fairmount Park at 6 AM we immediately started unpacking tee-shirts for walkers, setting up tables for vendors, & assisting the coordinators with whatever tasks they requested help with. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that WE HAD ONE OF THE LARGEST VOLUNTEER GROUPS, larger than the city volunteers & employees, & larger than some of the other, more tenured existing organizations.
By the time the walk around the park began, a few of us were able to sneak away to join the crowd while others of the team directed walkers along the route. While walking, a few of us encountered several homeless people throughout the park. Right away, we transitioned into ministry-mode. After all, if all we were going to do was walk around our brothers & sisters without even attempting to connect them to the vendors & service providers who were RIGHT THERE in the park sponsoring the event, then we really defeated our own purpose, right? Without a second thought, several of the volunteers began praying for people they met. A few of us stopped walking to grab a few of the free breakfast items to feed the few we passed. Now, that is what being the hands & feet of Jesus looks like!
Once the event was done, our volunteers quickly stepped in again to help tear down booths, pick up trash, & pack up the remaining materials left behind. When I tell you that the City of Riverside employees thanked us IMMENSELY for our help, I'm not kidding! I know what it takes to run large scale events like these, & having a team of readily available helpers makes a tremendous difference! We were some of the first to arrive & the last ones to leave. I could not have been more proud of our group that day.
The following day (Sunday), after worshiping with our amazing Antioch church family, we were ready to pour out all over again. This time, some of the Antioch School of Discipleship Ministry (ASDM) students joined us. They donated three trucks as we spent the afternoon delivering furniture to three different families throughout the city of Riverside. For weeks, we had been coordinating with the local shelter to deliver items to families who had just moved into their "forever homes." These homes & furnishings were provided thanks to a cooperative partnership with Path of Life, La Sierra University, & the County of Riverside. Just that week, one of the shelter's trucks broke down, so having us there with THREE trucks allowed us to quickly move items from the donation centers to the new residents' homes. Without Antioch, the ASDM students, Bethel Church & Path of Life, none of what happened that day would have been possible. I was not surprised. As usual, God made a way. All it took was a few simple acts of kindness & group of fired up young people!
Serving Our Purpose
I cannot tell you how proud I am to serve alongside such a selfless group of people on a regular basis. Sure, the faces sometimes change, but one thing remains the same: compassion. With each event that we sponsor &/or coordinate we generally have too many people wanting to help, more than enough food or donations to go around, & the Lord always exceeds our expectations. We go above & beyond for people that we don't know, in areas that many of us would otherwise never visit, to touch people that we may not ever see again.
We stop to love the ONE person who needs to know love at that moment. If all we ever do as an organization is love on people, serve our neighbors & give out of our own already overflowing resource bucket, I would say with confidence that we have served our purpose. This is why Legacy Shelters exists. This is why we care.
**Follow us on Instagram for our upcoming series #WhyWeCare to hear stories about the lives we impact & the people who champion our clients on!