A community dinner for the homeless in Pettis County with an emphasis on homeless veterans will be hosted Saturday at the Ditzfeld Center.
The dinner, sponsored by Diversified Community Outreach, is being organized by Sedalia-Pettis County NAACP Economic Development Committee Chairman Elder Eugene Poole.
“Diversified Community Outreach is an organization trying to reach the community and trying to bring the community together,” Poole said. “It’s to inform those, predominately in the black neighborhood, about what’s going on and what’s available for them.
“When we reach out, we want not only the black community to know, but we are also reaching out to our white brothers and sisters to let them know that they too can be a part of Diversified Community Outreach,” he added. “We can work together and make Sedalia a better place.”
Poole said several years ago Jerry Harlan decided to make a Community Friendship Garden and the bi-annual dinners coincided with the spring planting of the garden and fall harvest. The garden is located behind the Rose M. Nolen Black History Library, 109 Lima Alley.
“We started about two or three years ago,” Poole said of the dinners. “Mr. Harlan was instrumental in starting the garden to try and bring the community together.”
Poole, a member of True Vine Church of God in Christ, added that he came up with the idea for beginning a community dinner for the homeless.
“When I submitted the idea to DCO, (it was) with hopes that we carry out what the garden stood for,” he added. “The plan during that time was to have a march from the garden to the center. People of all races, colors and creeds would come together and march down and then fellowship together.”
Poole said they are expecting about 100 people at Saturday’s dinner. People have made donations of food and women are baking pies.
“The Open Door (Ministries) has been really great in providing us with some of the foods,” Poole said.
Poole said they were emphasizing the dinner is also for homeless veterans.
“Before most of the emphasis was on the homeless in general, but now we are including the veterans,” he added. “I have been told that there may not be any homeless veterans in Sedalia, but then there again, I’ve heard that there are.”
Poole said he met a homeless veteran and became his friend. The man, Steven Ray Myers, 50, was found dead from exposure in the woods in November 2014.
“I can’t think of the gentleman’s name, but he was at the park for the Juneteenth Day,” Poole said. “He wanted to know if he would be welcome. So, I told him don’t worry about a thing.
“Then I invited him to come to church and he came to church that following Sunday,” Poole added. “Then the same week, I think it was about three or fours days before the cold weather, he and his lady were out at Hubbard Park. We had become friends.”
The man told Poole he hadn’t eaten and Poole went and bought the couple some food.
“I was just devastated when I heard that he froze,” Poole noted.
Poole added that if he’d known the man needed a place to shelter, he would have found a place for him and his friend to stay.
“We all should be concerned about the homeless,” Poole noted. “Because, I believe the Word says ‘what you do for the least of these (you do for me).’”
During Saturday’s community dinner Poole said they would serve ham, macaroni and cheese, green beans, dessert and a drink.
They will also present the Interconnection Humanitarian Award to the late Jerry Harlan.
“This will be the first time,” Poole said of the award. “I chose that name because he was so adamant in trying to bring people together. He and his wife and some other members came up with the garden with hopes that we could draw the community together.”
Poole added that they are still accepting food and dessert donations and would be pleased to have volunteers help with the event.
“We will be going down there around 2 or 2:30 p.m. to set up,” Poole said.
The Community Dinner for all who are homeless, especially homeless veterans, will be hosted from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Ditzfeld Center, 417 W. Pettis Ave. Those who wish to donate food, or desserts or to volunteer time may contact Elder Poole at 827-4182 or 281-9375 or Elder W.T. Morris at 864-1423. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.