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Hazel Park

December 11, 2013

CityEdge starts Chris’ Closet to keep the needy warm

Homeless man inspires drive to collect gloves, scarves and more

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

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CityEdge starts Chris’ Closet to keep the needy warm
Volunteers from CityEdge Church and United Methodist Church of Hazel Park worked together at their shared location at 315 E. Nine Mile to arrange Thanksgiving baskets and premade meals in the days before the holiday. Now, they’re collecting gloves, scarves and other winter wear to help keep those in need warm this winter.

HAZEL PARK — It was the day before Thanksgiving, and volunteers from two local churches were deep in prayer. They had just finished putting together Thanksgiving dinners for those in need in the community, and they were getting ready to deliver them. 

That’s when they say Jesus walked through the door.

They saw Jesus in a homeless man named Chris, who they noticed after the prayer. The homeless man asked if they knew of any places serving hot meals.

“We thought of what Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, which was that when we serve people in need, we serve him,” said Craig Brundage, pastor of CityEdge Church, which shares the location at 315 E. Nine Mile with United Methodist of Hazel Park, their collaborators on the Thanksgiving dinners. 

“Here was a gentleman who was homeless. He was not demanding — he was not really looking for anything except for a little help,” Brundage said. “We were able to have him come sit with us, and he had a full Thanksgiving meal, and we took some of the meal donated for the baskets and here in our own pantry, and we gave him enough food that he’d be able to use it for the next few days.”

Chris took less than what he was offered, and he was deeply grateful. Only after he left did someone at the church realize that he wasn’t wearing gloves.

Now, CityEdge is trying to avoid that oversight in the future by collecting enough gloves, hats, scarves and other winter wear to hand out to anyone they see in need.

New and gently used clothing articles are being collected at the church and at the Hazel Park Community Center, 620 W. Woodward Heights Blvd. The goods will be collected throughout the winter.

“We don’t know if we’ll see Chris again, or if he has any idea that he caused such great change,” Brundage said. “He might not ever realize that by just coming into our presence and letting us feed him and care for him, it started something for us, where we’ll collect these items and give them out as we can.”

The Thanksgiving dinners were a huge success, serving about 60 families and individuals in the metro Detroit area.

Around 40 families received turkey baskets, with a turkey and all the fixings needed for Thanksgiving dinner, including stuffing, chicken broth, boxed potato meals, Jell-O, egg noodles, sweet potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, everything needed for green bean casserole, a pumpkin pie with whipped cream and more. These were delivered the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Then, there were the premade meals, for smaller groups, delivered the day before Thanksgiving. The platters were already cooked and good to go, with enough food to last multiple meals. These also included pumpkin pie.

Among the 60-some recipients were about 15 military families, including one in Shelby Township who brought a second meal up to a veteran in Port Huron. Some of them were found through the recruiting offices in Madison Heights and Southfield.

“These people took care of this country, but sometimes this country doesn’t take care of them,” Brundage said. “Sometimes, there’s a neglect there.”

Coordinating the project was Lisa Allen, in charge of the turkey baskets, and Jody Jones, in charge of the premade meals.

“The families I was in contact with were very grateful,” Allen said. “Some were surprised, some were enthusiastic and some were just overwhelmed with the food, and very gracious to receive the baskets.”

Jones noted: “The families we prepared meals for were people that couldn’t afford it, first of all, but also often weren’t in a situation where they could prepare it, either. One person was using space heaters to heat her house since she had no gas, so she couldn’t use a stove. She wanted to prepare the meal for her children, so this (premade meal) was a big deal for her.

“Every adult that went out (to deliver the goods) had teens or children with them,” Jones added. “They may not have been recipients of the food, but they were gaining so much just being a part of this and seeing what it means to actually work for Christ.”

Aside from CityEdge and United Methodist of Hazel Park, other groups involved in the project were Country Boy Restaurant, which donated food and provided takeout boxes for fresh meals; House of Beer, which also donated food; Kroger, which offered discounts and helped pull items ahead of time; the Hazel Park Community Center, which helped with collections; and the Hazel Park Memorial Library, which lent volunteers to help prepare the meals.

Brundage said he hopes another effect of the Thanksgiving dinners and now the glove-gathering drive is that more people will realize they can turn to each other for company and relief.

“We want people to feel community instead of isolation,” Brundage said. “So many people live in their own little worlds. We want to open them up.”

To contribute new or gently used winter wear, such as gloves, scarves, hats, hoodies and so on, visit the Hazel Park Community Center, 620 W. Woodward Heights Blvd.

CityEdge Church can be reached at (248) 765-4361.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.