We have served more than 74,000 meals since our start in 2003. That’s modest by some measures, but not to the thousands of people we’ve touched. We are a niche non-profit that did 138 outreaches in 2013, working closely with shelters like Dallas Life, Open Door Ministry in Denver and Tulsa’s Day Center for the Homeless. Everything we do is conducted by volunteers and supported by donors.
Actually, there is no secret. What we do is simple and plain to see. We find people. We befriend them. We encourage them. We serve sack lunches. We offer to pray for ‘em. And we point ‘em to shelters and other services. That’s the whole plan – feeding body and soul. We want the interaction to be both personal and dignified. All it takes is spending a little time with others. (And being street-wise, too).
PB&J? No way! We never make food at home. There are rules and regs against that. Everything we serve is (1) prepared in a commercial kitchen at a restaurant or shelter and (2) non-perishable. The primary staple in our sacks is an Arby’s or Chick-Fil-A sandwich, accompanied by bottled water, chips, cookies and an all-natural fruit bar purchased in bulk at big-box retailers.
Filling The Void is no flash in the pan. There’s permanence to this. We’ve been on the streets since 2003. It started with a man named Roy, who said he had been eating out of dumpsters. It was the moment that set everything in motion. We formed a a 501(c)(3) a few months later with a mission to serve the hungry, the homeless, the hurting and those who need healing.
Filling the Void is a faith-based 501(c)(3) mobile ministry that feeds and cares for the homeless and needy. Most of what we do occurs outside in all weather conditions as we reach out to people in desperate situations. Psalm 146:7 says, “He stands up for those who are beaten down. He gives food to hungry people. The Lord sets prisoners free.” We want to be a spark that helps people go from meals to miracles.
Some “hand-outs” really do help. One of the first things we strive to do is extend a hand of friendship by shaking the hands of those we serve. For us, it’s more than common courtesy. It’s a way to recognize and reinforce the dignity of every life. After all, 1 Peter 2:17 says to “show proper respect to all men.” More than 1,200 men, women and children have lent us their own hands through volunteering.
This is an S.O.S. from a man named Tracey. True, some people choose the streets. Others, however, want to get off them. That’s where Filling The Void comes in. We’re a mobile ministry that meets people where they’re at. If the road to recovery runs from A to Z, we’re the front door helping people start the process. It’s a lot like doing search-n-rescue, planting seeds of hope in people’s hearts.
Helping the homeless takes you places. Under bridges. Into shelters. And even to Washington D.C. We have two national awards for community service – a Presidential Volunteer Services Award in 2007 and a Jefferson Award in 2006 that included a ceremony with U.S. Senators. We’re especially grateful for these kudos because they were driven by the recommendation of our volunteers.
On Nov. 16, 2012, “Elizabeth Jones suddenly found herself the center of attention” according to the Tulsa World. She was the recipient of our 50,000th sack lunch. The milestone meal occurred 9 years, 1 month and about 3 days after we served our first meal to Roy on Oct. 13, 2003. Elizabeth is flanked here by FTV co-founder Erin Bjornberg (left) and volunteers Holly Warner and Chris Hyslop.
Our motivation comes from Matthew 9:36. It says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion.” We are too. But before you go gettin’ the wrong idea, non-discrimination is part of our DNA. We spelled it out as a matter of policy. No one has to do a thing to receive a sack lunch. (Special thanks to the Denver Rescue Mission for their front-door signage).