Americorps volunteer, retirees offer aid to the homeless

MARIETTA – The end of the month is often a crucial time for many people in the community.

However, for people on fixed incomes, the homeless or people whose resources have run out, it’s important to have a little help.

An Americorps volunteer, Caitlin Harville, 22, of Dayton, is working with the local Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and will work on the homelessness issue while she is here for the next year.

“It was important to have the basic necessities, and I thought it would be a good project,” she said.

RSVP coordinates volunteers who are 55 and older who want to give back to the community in a variety of ways.

RSVP director Lisa Valentine, Harville and four RSVP volunteers brought 32 homeless kits consisting of shampoo, deodorant, soap and other toiletry items packed in plastic zipper bags to the Marietta Community Food Pantry, 318 Front St., on Monday.

“I think this is a great way to go,” said Shirley Ingram, 70, of Marietta, one of the volunteers who helped assemble the kits. “They might need just a little extra help. This will help.”

Marietta Community Food Pantry Director Bill Farnsworth said the pantry usually helps about 60 homeless people each year with food, bedrolls, bags or backpacks and toiletries.

“It’s not a fun way to live, especially when it’s cold or hot,” he said.

Valentine said with a notice in RSVP’s newsletter, the items for the homeless kits came pouring in, including about $55 in cash. With that, they were able to buy extra items at a dollar store.

June Fritsche, 72, of Reno said it took about 30 minutes to assemble the 32 kits.

Extra items, such as razors, bandages and feminine hygiene products, also were donated to the pantry, Harville said.

Harville said the inspiration for the kits came from the Latrobe Street Mission in Parkersburg.

Valentine said there are many types of homeless throughout the community. That includes the old man, unwashed and unkempt, living under a bridge. More often than not, they are families.

“Out here, you see them living with other family members,” Harville said. “They might think, ‘I have a place to go,’ but there’s no stability. The family they live with often is struggling, too.”

It’s still early in Harville’s project, Valentine said. She’s acclimating with the community and meeting with agencies across town to determine what needs are present and what needs to be done to overcome those gaps in service.