Yesterday November 17th 2019 the Atheist Community of Lubbock hosted our first ever "No strings attached" Homeless Outreach Event. We provided personal hygiene items, blankets, cloths, sleeping bags, and a meal. In total we served approximately 120 people. That is 40% of the local homeless population! This amazing event was the culmination of months worth of fundraising and meticulous planning and organizing on the part of our wonderful board of directors and dedicated volunteers.
The Atheist Community of Lubbock is dedicated to providing secular support services to lubbockites. We believe in making sure everyone has a place they feel comfortable turning to for assistance. With 42.4% of lubbockites identifying their religious affiliation as "None", the secular population of lubbock is vastly underserved. We aim to fix this issue.
The planning process for this event began earlier this year. No one on the board had ever planned anything like this before, and we were all new. The one thing we did know was that we were going to need money, and a lot of it. So we started fundraising. We held parties, bbq's, garage sales and we worked concessions at TTU. It took us almost an entire year, and countless volunteer hours, but we finally had enough money. We had raised about $1200 and we asked our community for additional donations to help lighten the load for us. With an fantastic response we received hundreds of dollars worth of items! We sorted and organized what we had, purchased what we didn't and got ready for the big event!
Some of our amazing volunteers reached out to local businesses to inquire about donations, and local organizations to ask if they would come hand out information about the resources they provide and we got a great response. Papa Johns and Dominos both agreed to donate pizzas, United and Food King donated water, Tony's party rentals donated chairs and tables, The Sheet metal workers union donated $200, and Stormcrow gaming donated an item to auction off to help us fundraise! We were also able to get Vetstar, the VA, P.A.T.H.S and Starcare to come out as well!
The week before the event, we sent out a press release announcing the event, hoping to spread the word. We advertised on Facebook, we put up a billboard, and we dropped flyers at every place that would let us. We held our breath and hoped we had reached enough people to make a difference.
In the days that followed we were all stunned at the incredible response from lubbock citizens. Many people had heard about our event and reached out to help. We had donations pouring in, and volunteers signing up by the boatload. We were excited to see so many people supporting us, but we still didn't know if we would have enough people at the event to serve.
The day of the event. We all arrived at Mose Hood park and started setting up. It was windy and cold and we were all hoping we could just get things set up without everything blowing away. We had decided to have the event in a park because it was in an area where we knew a lot of people who are homeless are, and it is often difficult for people to find a ride to access services. We wanted to go to them, and not make them have to come to us. We didn't want to alienate the people staying in shelters though, so we designated a few volunteers to go out to the shelters to pick people up and bring them to the event.
As we set up, slowly we started seeing people make their way to us, and before long a line started to form. By the time we started we had about 30 people lined up ready to go. We were so relieved to see that word had gotten out and people were showing up!
Our volunteers were eager and ready to help. What we kept hearing from so many people is that they were grateful for an opportunity to volunteer for an organization that represented them. There was no pressure to act religious, it was a opening and welcoming environment.
It is important to us that we make people feel human, that we connect with them at our events, so we had several volunteers whose job it was to just simply engage in conversation with people. We got to know them on a personal level, and we even had one person comment "You guys are actually friendly, at other places, they act friendly, but you know its always cause they want you go to their church or something."
We had many amazing and heart warming stories from this event. One family showed up looking for their son who had been homeless for quite a while, they never knew where he was, but they showed up to our event on the off chance he would be there, and he was. It was a touching moment to see a family re-united with their son, just to let him know they loved him.
Another family, a father and his two young sons, 4 and 7 years old, showed up and some of our volunteers got the kids some food so the father could gather supplies that they needed. The older boy didn't want to eat his food, and when asked why he said he had an older brother that wasn't there, and he wanted to save his pizza for him. After hearing this, our volunteer quickly jumped up and got some extra pizza for them to take home.
All in all, this event was amazing. It was a truly humbling experience and none of it would have been possible without all of our hardworking and dedicated volunteers, sponsors and partners! We are thrilled to have been able to make a difference, and we want to continue to do so. If you would like to help support us, you can become a patron or donate to our Gofundme at the links below. Every single dollar helps! We could not do this without the help and support from our members. Thank you for all that you do!