Written by Susan Bennett

About three weeks ago, Nancy called me to say that she was cleaning out closets and had some blankets to get rid of. Instead of donating them to Goodwill or the Chapel Treasure Sale, she wanted them to go to the most needy and thought the Justa Center should have them for the homeless. I said I thought that was an excellent idea and offered to take them downtown for her. The weather had recently turned colder and I had turned on the heat in my home on a few of the cooler mornings, but never thought about the homeless who were probably much colder than I, if they had been outside trying to sleep all night.

Time passed as I carted Nancy’s blankets and a nice winter coat, which no longer fit her partner, around in the back of my mini-van. I was busy shopping and planning for the group of eight friends and relatives coming to my home for Thanksgiving dinner. I was thankful every day for my good health, my loving family, my nice home and the means to maintain it and live comfortably. I kept busy volunteering my time at various functions and even added some of my own sheets and pillows to the stash for the homeless in the back of my car. Today, I finally delivered the donations to the Justa Center.

Driving to their facility, I exited the I-17 and drove north on 15th Avenue in Phoenix. This is a very depressed and depressing area. No trees or grass, some run down stores and businesses, some homes (shacks with boarded up windows and falling down doors, probably leaky roofs and no insulation) and an elementary school with a ten foot tall wrought iron fence around the cement playground. I saw recently washed clothes drying on fences, packed dirt in front yards with old cars and trash. As I traveled north, I passed the intersections of Grant, Lincoln, Harrison, Jackson, and Madison Avenues before turning east on Jackson, and thought to myself: “How ironic to have all these streets named for historic, great men in this forsaken area of Phoenix!” I turned east just after passing by the Pioneer and Military Memorial Park, a dirt field with a few broken headstones, no trees or grass but a locked iron fence surrounding the field of grave sites. The Justa Center was only a few blocks ahead.

Boy, this area is quite a contrast to my home in Sun Lakes! Can’t imagine living here, and what if I didn’t even have a home? I had recently read John Grisham’s book “Street Lawyer” which dealt with the homeless in Washington, DC, and I was feeling just as anxious and uncomfortable about being here among these people as he described in his book.

I parked and went inside where lunch had just arrived from meals on wheels and at least fifty people were standing in line waiting for food. I told the employee at the door that I had donations and he shouted for two men in the line to come to assist in unloading my car. They were probably no older than I was, but well weathered by their life on the streets and much thinner. As they unloaded my donations their eyes lit up and one said “Just what I needed”, as he pulled the winter coat out of a bag. He was really excited and I was filled with gratitude at their obvious appreciation for our donations. The car was unloaded quickly and I was back on my way to suburbia with a new appreciation for all my blessings and new resolve to remember those less fortunate than I with more action.

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