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Helping the Forgotten Homeless of Las Vegas,
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Have you ever driven down North Las Vegas Blvd, or North Main Street or West Bonanza? If you have, then you've seen what this writer saw. Men, women and children scattered along the sidewalk-some with little pup tents, others with just a blanket to cover them from the glaring sun or chill of the evening. Their skin has turned to nearly burnt leather from exposure.

These are the Homeless People of our little village. They are the nearly forgotten souls who have nowhere to go. They seem to have little hope of finding a way out of their dilemma. Las Vegas Metro Police are sent down to the various areas every once in-a-while to chase these forgotten people away. The men and ladies of Metro are only doing what they are "ordered" to do. We heard first-hand, that many of those same officers often come by (in civilian clothes) and donate clothes and money to various locations - that feed and help clothe those in need.

But, among the glittering lights of the Las Vegas Strip and the downtown neon, there is some hope and help for these wonderful people. My friend, Nancy Barr, who practices the art of Asian Healing, told me one night that she felt like going down to the forbidden area (the police chase away, by threatening arrest, those who go down to walk among the needy with food and kind words) and getting involved in helping them.

That sparked an idea in my brain. So, we drove down and looked around and witnessed the forgotten ones sitting on the sidewalk, blank looks on their hardened faces, their eyes devoid of any feeling. We returned to my clean condo with the feeling that we definitely needed to do something. That evening we, Nancy and this writer, had a dinner engagement with Mrs. Vera (Mrs. Robert) Goulet. We told her what we had seen and that we were going to do something to help. Mrs. Goulet suggested we look into the various private and public entities that, perhaps, help the homeless with food, clothing and other necessities of sustaining life.

So the next day, Tuesday, March 24, Nancy and I ended up meeting with Chris Odle of the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, 480 W. Bonanza Road. Odle is a well educated lay-minister, who has volunteered his time as a Community Coordinator. Chris took us on a tour of the vast compound, which has expanded from a small storefront in 1970, to occupy a campus of eight buildings; stretching from "D" to "F" Streets. He pointed out a three story structure, now under construction, that will become a new dormitory and cafeteria for the forgotten ones.

Odle informed us that the present cafeteria feeds anywhere from 300 to 1,000 homeless men and women on any given evening. Daily meals are served at 5 p.m. to anyone who is hungry. Breakfast is supplied for overnight guests, and lunch for those who are a part of the residential program, including a bag lunch for those working off-site. (More than 300,000 meals are served annually).

I called Mrs. Goulet, who in turn called her friends, Broadway producer, Mike and Annie Merrick. We went out and purchased what we thought the people of the streets might need: toothpaste, razors, underarm deodorants, body wipes, toothbrushes, soap and shampoo. All of us gathered clothing and informed Odle that we would be bringing down the stuff the next day (Wednesday, March 25).

The staff at the Mission are some of the most dedicated people any of us have ever met. Tables were set up outside the cafeteria, where we began distributing our wares at 5 p.m., as the street people exited. That same evening, a group of other "givers" were passing out handmade sandwiches at the end of the line.

What was amazing was how grateful and honest these people are. They would say, "Oh I don't need the toothpaste right now, give it to the next person in line," and then move on to pick up a razor and look through the clothes. Vera Goulet, Ann Merrick, Nancy and I handed out the merchandise until the last item was gone. Mike Merrick helped in the kitchen serving food.

We left the compound with a new sense of having just accomplished something good. It is hard to describe the inner feeling one gets from helping those less fortunate. I now understand why celebrities often give of their time and money to go to such far-away places as Darfur, or devastated places such as New Orleans.

Once you have seen a face go from a gloomy expression to a smile, and the eyes, once blank, change to a look of hope, as they meekly thank you, you know whatcha got to do.

Vera contacted a bunch of her local friends and informed them of what we were doing. We, Nancy, Vera and this writer, then went shopping (99 cent store and WalMart) to purchase more of the items badly needed-this time, adding washcloths and socks to the list. Vera gathered some of her late husband's clothing and other items (nearly 20 boxes full), and Chris Odle came to the Goulet residence on Monday (March 30) to pick up the boxes and the items we had purchased, so they would have everything ready for our distribution on Wednesday, April 1.

Vera's letter's to her friends turned the trick. Not only would our original group be there last Wednesday, but we were to be joined by more people who will bring clothing and essentials to be given to the people of the streets (This column is being written before our visit, so we will have list of helpers next week)..

If you feel the urge to help, call Chris Odle at (702) 278-6194. The Mission receives very little financial help from the government. Most of the financial assistance comes from private and corporate donations. You Can Make a Difference!

THIS AND THAT QUICKLY... The guys who make those loud noises, burning rubber at The Strip (Las Vegas Motor Speedway), are back and roaring to go. Yep, the 10th Annual NHRA Nationals, is set to get underway, big time, with qualifying for the professionals beginning at 12: 30 and again at 3:30 p.m. Friday. The most notable of the drivers, John Force, was on hand at a media luncheon held Wednesday at ESPN. Force is not only a Grand Champion, but is also a very funny dude. He told the media (off the record) stories about his daughter, Ashley, and stories about some of the other drivers. Funny stuff.

That's it for this week, gang.
I'm Outa here!

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