SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – More than 200 homeless people and struggling families were given hope at Forest Park. While volunteers from the Progressive Community Baptist Church in Springfield were glad to serve two hot meals to so many hungry people, the day also reminded them just how many people are in need in Greater Springfield.
“It gives you a reality check on how many people are not as fortunate as we are and it just lets us know that as the church community, we should be doing much more for the people that are less fortunate,” Reverand Joe Long, Jr. told 22News.
This was the 15th Annual Homeless Picnic. Reverend Long said each year, volunteers shuttle hundreds from the homeless shelters in Springfield to the park for a day of fun, food, arts and crafts, and hope.
“It’s not easy for you to live on the street, or to even get a place, you know a meal, just some place to fill your belly, just some place to sit down and chat with somebody,” said Augustin Vives, a homeless veteran living in Springfield, but originally from New York.
At the start of the day, dozens of boxes were filled with clothing donations. Community members gathered everything from baby clothes to outfits for a job interview as well as always needed sweaters for the freezing cold winters.
Michael Steenbuck said Monson is his home, but for the first time in his life, he’s homeless in Springfield. “It hurts. When I lived at home and saw on TV about everybody being homeless, I never really thought about it…until here I am and I need it,” Steenbuck told 22News.
Church volunteers said they’ve witnessed how a bit of happiness from this day has inspired some to turn their lives around and live a better life.