Like many residents, Jan Carlton had no idea what the Help Office of Owensboro did in the community. Then, several years ago, a group was given a tour by Mary Dixon Baker, a volunteer, to see the Help Office process in action. It was obvious that many people were there in need of food, emergency financial assistance and the clothing closet.
Carlton saw several homeless people at the Help Office. Most come without basic personal items or even a bag in which to carry anything they might have.
“I saw the needs of a great number of people and wanted to do more,” she said.
So, she began with a donation of items and money. Recently, she approached now retired director, Woody Woodward with the idea of putting together backpacks for the homeless who came in and he readily agreed and the “homeless bags” were born.
Carlton started gathering new and good to gently used backpacks, given by friends and family, useful items and putting them together. She compiled a list for men and women who had needs and nowhere to go. The list included many items that some people may take for granted: soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, shampoo, tissue, hairbrush/comb set, socks, a rain poncho, gloves, and other hygiene items. She also included items which the homeless might need such as plastic drop cloth, plastic table cloth, and tarp to provide a dry place to lie. Carlton would put together the backpacks and take them to the Help Office to be kept for those who needed them the most. The feedback came in words of gratitude from the recipients.
“Since I began the backpack ministry in November 2018, I have put together 76 backpacks for the Help Office,” Carlton said. “From the response, I have received, I believe that it is a vital ministry that I hope to continue. This is just one of many needs that community volunteers can assist the Help Office in providing. I encourage people to visit the Help Office and see if they would like to be part of helping others.”
When Angela Settle, recently took over the Executive Director position at the Help Office of Owensboro, she said, “I was thrilled to learn that Jan was routinely supplying the homeless bags.”
Settle said while that is Carlton’s mission, there are other ways community members can help meet people’s needs.
“I encourage anyone who has an interest in ministering to the less fortunate to consider visiting the Help Office to learn how they can contribute as well,” she said.
The Help Office of Owensboro is located at 1316 W. 4th St. They are open to accept donations 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.